Hoping to Specialize in Medical Racism, Hurtado ’24 Begins College After Helping Mother Graduate

By Caitlin Burns | September 10, 2020
Arcadia University student Emilia Hurtado and her mother at her quinceanera

“It was a challenging cultural shock when I came here [to America],” said Emilia Hurtado ’24, a first-year Chemistry major who immigrated from Costa Rica with her mother at eight years old. “There were a lot of differences between my school in Costa Rica versus studying here. And I didn’t speak any English when I came here.”

Hurtado recalls struggling the first year she attended Good Intent Elementary School in Deptford, N.J., where she started off in an English as a Second Language class before joining her peers in another class after two months. She describes having to “keep the pace” with her classmates for that first year.

However, for the past five years Hurtado has been putting her bilingual skills to use helping her mother in her college courses. As an adult, her mother has struggled to learn English, so Hurtado translates her coursework and proofreads her assignments. She jokes that sometimes her mother sends screenshots from her student portal asking her to translate.

“She can understand basic English, but when it comes to college classes, it’s sometimes hard for her to understand,” said Hurtado. “Since middle school, I’ve been translating stuff for my mom. I’m proud of her. She works full-time and sometimes she’s had to take gap years because it overlapped with her job as a hospice nurse, so getting her degree was hard.”

Hurtado’s mother is now applying for nursing school and hopes to continue her education at Rutgers University. Hurtado said she’s happy to see her mother follow her dreams, even if it’s taken longer than expected.

Interest in the medical field doesn’t fall far from the tree in Hurtado’s family either. Hurtado plans to pursue medical research after earning her degree from Arcadia. She hopes to specialize in medical racism, which is discrimination in healthcare based on the idea that there are biological character differentials between races that can be ranked. Hurtado wants to make a difference, and she hopes to do medical research to improve how people of color are treated in the U.S. healthcare system.

“I took a public speaking class and did an informative speech about medical racism,” said Hurtado. “Ever since then, I’ve been interested in it and decided that’s what I want to do. I want to do something in the medical field to make a difference.”