A Special Student Spotlight: Caitlyn Gil

Caitlyn+Gil

Caitlyn Gil

Caitlyn Gil

Gabriela Danger, Opinion Editor

La Salle is home to a variety of people hailing from different places around the world. From Haiti to Colorado, Venezuela to Rhode Island, or Cuba to Mexico, ILS is a true “garden variety.” However, it’s fairly common to meet someone at ILS who is some kind of Hispanic or Latin American. What’s not so common is to meet people like Caitlyn Gil.

Caitlyn was born in Aruba. To go from one side of the island to another takes “30-40 minutes,” by her estimation. She grew up there and made friends. In Aruba, “everyone (knew) everyone, somehow,” Caitlyn explained.

Even on a quick run to the supermarket, Gil recalled always running into someone she knew, however vaguely or far removed.

“That familial feeling followed you everywhere, and it made you feel safe,” she remembered.

She continued going to school on the quiet island until the end of 9th grade.

Gil decided to attend ILS for 10th grade, just as her sister Arielle had before her. Arielle, feeling limited in Aruba, was following in her father’s footsteps. He came to study in the U.S because his father (Caitlyn’s grandfather) felt that the States could offer him a wider range of opportunities for jobs and studies. Gil’s dad did so, attending Florida Christian and college here in the States. Caitlyn thought it made sense for her to follow on this trajectory as well.

“I put my all into my schoolwork while also studying for the American Entrance Exam, exchanged goodbyes with friends, and went on to move in the summer of 2019,” Gil recollected.

Arriving to Miami brought an enormous paradigm shift for Gil.

“Aruba can be very quiet, either due to the peaceful nature of being by the beach, or a more reserved culture in some cases. On the other hand, Miami is LOUD, no matter where you are there’s always some type of noise at any time of the day!” she described.

Miami’s relatively intense atmosphere is just one of many changes Caitlyn observed upon moving to the city.

Gil is a born introvert. Growing up in Aruba and seeing familiar faces everyday made it a bit of a shock when coming to La Salle. She used to be taken aback by large, rowdy crowds that can be found most anywhere in Miami, but now, after being here for about three years, she has learned very much.

She’s also had to adapt to Miami’s large usage of English and Spanish. Gil grew up speaking Papiamento, a creole language used predominantly on Aruba and surrounding areas.

“Even though I knew English fluently, not being able to bounce around different languages in one sentence without confused looks or struggling to translate words not found in English has been tricky,” she commented.

Gil also talked about coming out of her shell a bit.

“I think I’ve grown to be more social as time has gone on,” she said. Going out with her friends and participating in school has helped her with that.

“I’ve become comfortable with large crowds and meeting new people, and, as dumb as it is, can order my own food now,” she added. Nothing dumb there!

Living away from her immediate family also presented its own challenge, but Gil feels she’s become more independent because of it.

“The difference between my home in Aruba that (is) full of noise (and) surrounded by trees, and the quiet of the apartment I share with my sister was a lot to get used to. Because of that, I think I’ve also gotten very familiar with silence, which becomes a problem when I’m presented with a loud environment,” she added wistfully.

Luckily, Gil says that her family has been “very supportive” of her endeavors here at ILS. She explained that they are the first to push her forward when she needs it, and motivate her towards her goals.

“Even though they can’t be here all the time,” she added, “they make sure to visit for Drama Club productions to support as best they can.”

When they’re not around, Gil appreciates her older sister, who has acted as her main support system ever since her move to Miami.

“I know being tasked with taking care of your little sister when you’re still in school yourself is no easy feat, so for her to have done everything she has (makes me) so grateful,” Gil said.

As of now, Gil is a senior enjoying her ILS life in Miami. She has many friends, and has recently joined the swim team. This decision has made her more passionate and helped her rediscover her “love for the water.” Besides swimming, Gil enjoys singing and drawing. For many international students and faculty, ILS is home. For Gil, this means a shift from calm island life on Aruba to the hustle and bustle of Miami.