Shuffling worlds

Laura Potra Walsh was born in November 1976, in Bucharest, a city that she left together with her parents, George and Mariana Potra, when she was 13 years old, to come to Chicago, USA. In 1995, the Potra family moved to Modesto Ca, where Laura currently lives with her husband and daughter. She has two brothers, Julian and Mario, and a sister, Carmen, who live in the relaxed vacation destination, Hot Springs, Arkansas. Her parents also live in Hot Springs, and Laura visits them a few times a year. Passing through Arizona with her husband, Laura graciously agreed to give us an interview.

-Tell us about your educational background. What are your impressions of Turlock? What would you like to tell us about the university and the religious culture there?

After finishing high school, Laura attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, as a Biology major. After her freshman year she transferred to CSUS, California State University, Stanislaus so that she can be closer to her parents who had moved to Modesto, Ca. Later, her parents moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. During her college years, Laura lived in Turlock where CSUS is located. Turlock and Modesto are neighboring towns located in the middle of the state, in a region called the Great Central Valley, a place conducive to agriculture, due to its mild climate. West of the valley lies the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and just east of it are the Sierra Nevada mountains. San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada hills are less than 2 hour drive from Modesto. Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and Los Angeles, are not too far either. Modesto, as well as Turlock, has many churches, including a Romanian one.

– Tell us about your life after graduating from college? What did you teach? What do you presently do?

– At the university I studied Biology, Math, and Psychology, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Science in Psychology. I was involved in the educational system for a while teaching math at the high school and college level. I was also a social worker and therapist under the Stanislaus County Social Services department, working with children and adolescents who were in their system. I think as long as you like what your doing, most likely you will be successful at it. Currently, I am a stay at home mom for my baby daughter, Anna, who is 11 months old. I like my new profession and I think it is an investment well merited.

– How long have you been married? How would you describe your husband? How did you two meet?How fast did your relationship progress, considering that you were originally from a different culture?
I’ve been married to my husband Richard Walsh for about five years now. He is Irish – American, and we met about seven years ago at Big Valley Grace Community Church, in Modesto, a church that we continue to attend. Rick is 37 years old, has a BA in Communication and a Commercial pilot’s license with Instrument & Multi-Engine ratings. Currently he works for a company that his family owns called AdClub Advertising in Modesto, which is a national recruitment advertising agency.
– How easy was it for you to adapt to the American culture? To what extent did your husband detect the cultural differences among you, if one can speak of such differences? What similarities, of education or thinking, do the two of you have?

When I arrived in the US I was in 7th grade and it was somewhat difficult to adapt to the new culture, especially since I didn’t speak English. However, by the time I met Rick, 12 years later, I was by then well familiarized with the American culture. My husband and I have the same religion, educational level, and political orientation. Not to mention, he likes Romanian food.

You have an investment property in Tucson, Arizona, a university town. What did you find attractive in Arizona, particularly in Tucson? How often do you visit Tucson with the family and what do you like to visit in the Grand Canyon state? Have you considered moving here in the future?
We’ve chosen Tucson because it was a good investment place for real estate. We like the city, unfortunately, we don’t get to visit it often. For now our future plans are to remain in California.

-How often do you visit Romania? When you were there last, what were your impressions of it? Do you keep in touch with the Romanian community in the city were you live? How would you characterize this community?

Since I’ve been in the US, I went back to visit Romania twice. The first time I went with a group of American Christians from Modesto on a missions trip to an orphanage in Bucharest. I’ve also taught Romanian to a number of such missionaries. Big Valley Grace has missionaries in many parts of the world, including Romania. In my last visit to Romania three years ago, I was accompanied by my husband, who has never been there before. During both of my trips to Romania I was able to visit with family and friends who live there. The Modesto Romanian community here in Modesto is very small compared to what I was used to in Chicago and therefore very different.

I understand that you like to travel. How many countries did you visit and which one did you like the most (in what month/year were the trips).

I’ve mostly traveled in the US, including Hawaii. I went to Romania twice, also in Canada, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand. I think every place I’ve visited has its beauty. In Rome, we were impressed with the ancient architecture and art. Australia and New Zealand seemed exotic. We were there at the end of November, beginning December, the winter season for us in the US, but summer for them over there.

What did you think about Australia ? What did you especially liked or disliked about the Australian continent ?

Sidney is a renown metropolitan city. The Sidney Opera House and the Hillsong Church were memorable. Hillsong is pastored by Brian Houston, and is known for its worship music that is sung all over the world. In the north west region of Australia, we went to Cairns and Port Douglas, to see the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world. A beautiful place with a tropical climate. The one thing we weren’t too excited about was the fact that this region is considered one of the most dangerous places to live in the world because it is home to many wild and venomous animals, of both land and water. I remember “admiring” the huge Australian crocodiles on one of our boat tours as the guide was describing the “crocs” surrounding us.

How about New Zealand? Tell us please a few things that you specifically liked about this place?

In the south, we liked Queenstown. The people there are very laid back and friendly and seemed to always have a pleasant disposition. New Zealand is the opposite of Australia in terms of having wild and dangerous animals ? New Zealand has none. There were some very beautiful places to see. There were even some icebergs from Antarctica floating by when we were there, Antarctica being relatively close to New Zealand.
Which country did you find to be the most beautiful out of the ones you visited?
The scenery in New Zealand was the most moving.

Who would you consider to be your role model?

– Mother Theresa is a person that for me embodies the heart of a servant. I believe the life of a Christian should be a life of giving and of compassion, especially for those less fortunate than we are.

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