Ericka Torres, a junior majoring in international studies with a minor in criminology, has taken an interest in gun control policy after a horrific event that occurred during her freshman year at USF.
Hearing that so many of her loved ones were affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) shooting in Torres’s hometown of Parkland, was one of the most traumatic experiences of her life, she said.
She remembers being sent videos while the shooting was happening and hearing the screams of those who were once her classmates as bullets came through the ceiling and floors.
Torres is constantly being reminded of the grief her loved ones had to endure as more shootings happen in other parts of the country.
Many of her friends from Parkland have become activists involved with the March For Our Lives Movement. She says that it’s these people who constantly educate her about the importance of gun reform.
“Parkland was one of the safest cities in Florida and knowing that something so tragic happened somewhere that I felt safe really scared me,” said Torres.
She urges people to educate themselves about gun reform, contact their elected officials, and support organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety that work to end gun violence. Most importantly, she wants people to talk about the shootings so all of the victim’s stories are heard.
“I’m concerned about how desensitized we have become to these shootings,” said Torres.
From this experience, she learned to never take her loved ones for granted.
“People can be taken from you in an instant,” said Torres.
Although it was difficult to cope with the tragedy, she did not let the experience affect her academically. What happened at MSD will never leave her, but she is holding onto positive memories of her home and her loved ones.
Before investing more of her time into her criminology studies, she was strictly focused on learning about international relations.
“My goal is to work [as part] of an organization like the [United Nations], managing public or media affairs, concentrating on distributing policy,” said Torres.
This goal stems from her interest in international culture. Having only been out of the country a handful of times, once to her father’s home country of Guatemala, she desires more interaction with cultures outside of her own.
When asked what she loves to do, the arts seemed to be high on her list of passions.
“I love the way art allows a person to express themselves in an unconventional fashion and how it speaks to everyone differently,” said Torres.
But, how do the arts align with her chosen path, and how will she connect her passion to working in public/media affairs?
“Managing international relationships is like using artistic mediums to make people feel or understand something, except cultures and languages would be the mediums,” Torres said.
Torres soaks up as much culture as she can, knowing that these experiences are exactly what will shape her into the future international public affairs professional she hopes to be.
“I see so many people [at USF] that look different and have come from different parts of the country and the world,” said Torres.
Growing up near Miami, being surrounded by different cultures was the norm. Itching for a move from Parkland, Torres said traveling to USF challenged her in ways that she didn’t expect.
“Back home, I had convenient access to museums, street art and local artists,” said Torres.
For someone like her, who is constantly feeding off of the perceptions and narratives of others, it’s challenging to be in a space where there is more room for distraction.
“I am a natural procrastinator and have always dealt with social anxiety. It’s easy for me to get off track and overthink. However, by surrounding [myself] with motivated people that are always trying to grow and better themselves, [I feel] more self-driven,” said Torres.
As for her studies at USF, Torres is proud of how much she has evolved. After what happened in Parkland, she hopes to dive deeper into her criminology studies so she can better understand the policies behind gun control.
More than anything, Torres is an experience collector. In the mosaic of world cultures, she wants to take her time exploring each, because “there is no room for growth in your comfort zone.”
Bulls Chronicle is an ongoing series in The Oracle’s Focal Points section which features students around campus.