Natalia Caicedo ’25, a first-year international student from Colombia and one of the International Center’s student workers, shares her experience in her first Gala.
Being a first-year, I’m uninformed most of the time about what special events Clark has every year, especially now because a lot of them, like Gala, haven’t been done in some years. I’m part of the Salsa Club at Clark—which represents Cuba at Gala—and they were the ones that introduced me to Gala. I’m from Colombia and dance has always been part of my culture, so I jumped at the opportunity to not only perform but also choreograph for the Cuba dance with one of my teammates.
Gala was an intense experience, mainly because there is a lot of effort put into it. I signed up for three dances: Colombia, my home; Puerto Rico, some of my friends are from here; and Cuba, because I’m on the Salsa Team. Being in one dance is very time-consuming, so when I took on three my plate was full. We had late-night rehearsals almost every day—including weekends—for close to two months. We had to learn the dance and run it for what felt like a million times to perfect it. Even though it was hard, the last week was the most excruciating. We call that last week “Hell Week” because we have to run around from rehearsal to rehearsal and dance from 7:00 p.m. to midnight every day.
Everything paid off in the end, though, because the performance was amazing and everyone enjoyed Gala. Before getting on stage and hearing the audience cheer, I felt a crazy amount of nerves and adrenaline that I would love to feel every year from now until I graduate from Clark. Being part of Gala was an experience that made me feel close to home and helped me to meet new people that I now call my friends. It was also incredible to see how invested everyone was in making Gala unforgettable for everyone who was part of it: the International Students Association, the performers, the choreographers, and the audience. Being a part of activities like Gala makes me see how much Clark cares for its international students and how united our community can be. I look forward to participating in Gala again, and maybe even choreographing for Colombia next year!