UNL foreign exchange student adjusts to new life

Nicaraguan foreign exchange student Leonnie Quintana Haslam is embracing her new life in Nebraska and her passion for graphic design for a semester at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Leonnie Quintana Haslam has noticed a positive improvement in graphic design work since coming to UNL.

Haslam’s exchange program had 10 options for universities, but she was placed in Nebraska. And although UNL wasn’t one of her top three choices, she still took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, regardless of where she was placed.

After graduating high school at the young age of 16, she decided to pursue a gap year in which she took some drawing courses and explored her artsy side.

She developed a love for drawing at a young age and kept her drawings and creative ideas in a sketchbook. Due to travel restrictions, she had to leave her sketchbook behind and purchase a new one at the University bookstore.

“It’s weird,” she said. “I’m so used to drawing in my sketchbook, and now that I’m here I just have this new one.” 

Her love for drawing is the reason she decided to pursue graphic design.

Despite the change of her sketchbook and atmosphere, she has noticed a positive change in her graphic design work since coming to Nebraska.

“I’ve grown so much not just in a personal way, but my graphic design work has changed a lot,” she said.

In Nicaragua, she discovered her work was becoming predictable and similar. In Nebraska, she’s been able to go outside her comfort zone and explore different styles of graphic design.

“The teachers here are more open-minded,” she said.

Her UNL teachers have influenced her graphic design in a positive way, whereas back home she felt like her teachers steered her in an expected direction.

Making friends

Since the semester started, she also has made some valuable friendships.

One of the first friends she made was Alejandra Sanchez from Mexico, whom she met at orientation in January. Since they are both foreign exchange students, they had a lot to share and hit it off.

“I think she is a really unique, friendly and joyful person who is always willing to cheer up and support her friends,” Sanchez said. 

The young women relate to each other because they are both Latina graphic design majors.

Another person Haslam has befriended is You Cheong Jae, a statistics major and foreign exchange student from South Korea.

Jae said Haslam she finds herself getting inspiration from Haslam.

“Her graphic design is very creative and inspiring,” Jae said.

Not only do Jae and Haslam get along well, but they relate to each other on many things. They joke that Jae is the Korean version of Haslam.

Life after Nebraska

Aside from her graphic design work, Haslam is still adjusting to life in Nebraska and wishes she could stay longer for the full experience. While she misses her family, friends and pets, she said she’s not particularly homesick for Nicaragua.

Once her schooling is completed, she hopes to do freelance work and travel the world before settling down into a full-time career in graphic design.

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