Nicole Llacza

Turning Language Barriers into Opportunities

January 30, 2024

Written by Sofiia Mikadze, '24

Born in the U.S. and raised in Lima, Peru, Nicole Llacza’s decision to apply to U.S. colleges was seemingly straightforward. Attending a small Catholic school in Lima meant that the application process required tackling SATs and assisting her school in navigating unfamiliar territories, such as CommonApps and recommendations. Moreover, her parents, who did not speak English, added an extra challenge to the process.

Yet soon Llacza found herself at the University of Richmond, just a few hours away from family that lived in Maryland. Upon arriving, she lacked a sense of belonging, heightened by COVID-19 restrictions, and felt a barrier between her Peruvian background and the American college experience, made more difficult by language barriers. She struggled to find her community on campus. 

However, Llacza’s adjustment to Richmond took a pivotal turn when she joined Endeavor RSB, a living-learning experience for first-year business students, in which she found a supportive community and forged enduring connections. “Even though the pandemic posed challenges, I was able to meet amazing professors and fellow students in the program who played a crucial role in my personal development,” she said. Soon, Llacza found her community on campus and formed many new friendships. She expanded her network and formed connections with students across campus through her dual degree in Economics and English. 

With the assistance of Richmond scholarships and funding programs for flights and accommodations, Llacza interned with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in Munich, Germany, last summer. Tasked with fostering foreign direct investment (FDI) and building connections between Virginia and European countries, she navigated a once foreign field.

Working with VEDP in Munich provided Llacza with hands-on experience in an intimate office environment. The responsibilities entrusted to her went beyond routine tasks, allowing her to interact directly with superiors and contribute significantly to the team. The exposure to international lawyers broadened her understanding of law, as she discovered that the field focused on human rights, diplomacy, and business deals. 

Llacza’s aspirations include attending law school focusing on international business law, as inspired by her internship. As she envisions a career that transcends borders, she advises fellow students to embrace the myriad opportunities at UR, reassuring them that finding community and making plans is a gradual process.

In the spirit of her journey, Llacza encourages students to be bold and not feel pressured to have everything figured out from the start. Her story exemplifies how navigating linguistic and cultural challenges, be it in Richmond or Munich, can lead to profound personal and professional growth, making her a true inspiration for the global community on campus.