“My parents have always wanted a better future for me and my sister. We were already looking for options in Florida but it wasn’t until my parents heard about the ELI (English Language Institute) at the University of Florida through a radio spot that my parents knew it would be a better option. They responded to the ad and received assistance with information on cost, how to obtain an F1 Visa, and the life in Gainesville; it was during this call that Santa Fe College was mentioned as being close to UF. SF was brought up as a good option for school to keep costs down after completing the ELI program. This radio ad was the first time I heard about Gainesville. Before that, I didn’t know anything about the U.S., just Disney. But when I arrived, I knew Gainesville was going to be so much more!
Before the ELI program, I knew the basics of the English grammar, but it was the speaking, the conversational part that I needed practice with, especially because as a Latina, our accents can be very strong and I was always working on improving it. I admit that now, I really enjoy when U.S. citizens ask me, “Are you not from here?”, the answer is , “No, I come from the most beautiful country I have and will ever visit: Venezuela.
I didn’t come here to make people feel sad about Venezuela, instead I want to raise awareness; to open their eyes and help them see what it is not being shown and to not believe everything they hear. Venezuelan culture is fun and cool. It’s a very warm country in terms of the people. They make you feel welcomed anywhere you go, it is common place that they treat you like you’re have been friends their whole life.
The food is rich with flavor and soul. Unfortunately, when I came to the U.S. Most of the food I was eating was artificial, far from homemade. I miss my Mom’s food. There’s this lasagna that we make a little bit different. It is not called lasagna but pasticho. It’s like pasta cake, a cake of pasta with meat and bechamel sauce, it’s like an alfredo sauce. We combined that with a meat and it tastes so much better than just marinara sauce. Some people will add sweet plantains to the recipe (recipe included below).
It can be difficult being away from my home country and my family but I have had people at SF who have helped guide me along the way.
Dr. Kalpana Swamy, my counselor has held my hand and comforted me through challenging times, as a family-oriented Latina, I needed that connection!
I have always been amazed by the greetings from Dr. Dan Rodkin, Associate Vice President of Student Affiars, the few times we’ve crossed paths he always remembers my name and major, out of thousands of students. This small gesture makes me feel like I am memorable and important, not just one more international student.
Angelica Suarez, gave me my first job and opened my eyes to qualities I didn’t know I had, like organization, leadership, a strong self, creativity and work ethic.
These and so many others have impacted my success here in the U.S. and made it possible for me to stay here. In regards to my work life, I am still figuring out what exactly it is I want to do. I am inclined towards working for HR and/or being the owner of a small family clinic that can be accessible (money wise) for international students and immigrants.
Mostly of all, I aspire to be a happy, successful, and accomplished woman. I believe thar regardless of what I choose to do, being an administrator, a manager, a nurse, an advisor, a stylist, a tutor, a mom, a wife… I will strive to be happy and make an impact.”
Oriana Diaz Moffa, SF Student in Business Administration
Yiyi’s Pasticho a.k.a. Venuzuelan Lasagna
Lasagna is originally from Italy. However, we have made some changes to the recipe which is why we consider Venezuelan; especially since the name is different. In Venezuela, every Pasticho is different, this is my mom’s version.
Cautionary note: I did my best to add measurements but, in my family, we cook everything to the “eye percent”; meaning we add ingredients until we love the flavor; we don’t have a specific amount we add of each ingredient.
For the bechamel sauce
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 1/2 cups milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grated nutmeg to taste
- Small-square-cut ham
- Add parmesan or mozzarella cheese (optional)
For the pasta
- 1-2 boxes of Barilla Lasagne Pasta. It all depends on how much pastiche you want to make. (It says no precooking needed but my family does it anyways )
For the beef (Everything is cut is small square pieces)
- 2lbs of ground beef
- Red and/or yellow peppers (about 1-2)
- 2-3 celery stalks
- 1-2 leeks
- Green onions (about 4)
- 1 Yellow Onion
- Sweet pepper (about 4-5)
- 4lbs of Roma tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- Oregano to taste
- Thyme to taste
- 1 tbsp of rosemary
- 1-2 laurel leaves (Do not cut). *My family doesn’t eat these leaves, but it is eatable. We take them out of the dish after it is cooked.
Now, the fun part! Preparation
For the bechamel sauce
- Step 1 – Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, stir in the flour until smooth. Continue stirring as the flour cooks to a light, golden, sandy color, about 7 minutes.
- Step 2 – Increase heat to medium-high and slowly whisk in milk until thickened by the roux. Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering until the flour has softened and no longer tastes gritty, 10 to 20 minutes, then season with salt and nutmeg.
For the beef
- Before throwing the beef into the pot, sauté the onions with the garlic until onions are almost transparent. Do not let the garlic burn.
- Add the beef with the laurel leaves and rosemary, and stir until cooked
- Add the leek, green onions, and celery. Stir and let it cook for about 10 min
- Then, add the peppers with the sweet peppers. Stir, and let it cook for about 10 min
- Add tomatoes, stir, and let it cook for a while until the water of the tomatoes has almost dried completely. We do not want a liquid sauce. Each piece of Pasticho should be like a piece of a cake: firm, or semi-firm.
- Now, you can add all the spices: salt and pepper, thyme, oregano, and any other spices you want to add.
Assemble the Yiyi’s Pasticho
- Once the beef is ready, mix the bechamel sauce with the beef.
- Add a layer of pasta to the bottom of the glass or aluminum pan
- Then, a layer of the beef with the bechamel sauce
- Add parmesan cheese or the cheese of your choice (Salty cheese preferably)
- Repeat 2-4 in that order, until you get to the top of the pan
- The last layer should be the beef with bechamel sauce and tons of cheese. It must be a thick layer of cheese so when it is baked, the layer of cheese is hard enough to keep the beef and sauce together underneath it.
- Preheat the oven to 400F in the baking mode
- Let Pasticho grate until the cheese has a golden color. It usually takes about 15-20 min.
- Now, eat and enjoy!