Realizing Dreams

 Norma Flores '03

norma flores '03While studying abroad at Oxford University in England during her junior year at Bluffton, Norma Flores 03 happened across a group of French students who gathered yearly in Paris to conduct mini-Parliament sessions based upon issues currently facing their government. These kids were between 14 and 19, says Flores, and I was floored by how much they knew, not only about their government, but about ours. They knew all about the policies that affect us, and not just international policies but domestic ones as well.

It was then that Flores realized the enormity of what it means to live in the United States. Studying abroad really opened my eyes to what it means to be an American, says Flores, and to why other countries are so focused on us. What we do here, in one way or other, is going to affect them and their lifestyles. I always knew America was a superpower, but I never fully grasped the pros and cons of that until I spent time abroad.

At the tender age of six, Flores told her parents that she wanted to be a history professor, and at 26, she s realizing that dream, teaching as an adjunct history professor at Lourdes College, while she works toward a doctorate in modern European history at Bowling Green State University. She fell in love with Bluffton on her first visit. "I stepped foot on campus and knew I was where I was supposed to be," she says. "I checked out other colleges, but nothing felt as right as Bluffton." She says her time at Bluffton opened the door to numerous opportunities, including the opportunity to study abroad and to learn more than she ever could have possibly imagined.

Flores's time overseas did far more than simply help her grow academically. "In fact," she says, "Oxford was more of a spiritual journey than it was an academic journey. For the first time, I was completely removed from my safety net. I had to learn how to rely fully on God and be OK feeling alone but knowing that I wasn't." When she was feeling overwhelmed, Flores says she would walk into the nearest church, regardless of denomination, and take comfort. Even though they praised differently or the sermons and songs were a little different, there was still a community of believers gathered there.

While on campus, Flores became involved in numerous activities: You name it, and I m sure I tried it! She served as the president of Ropp Hall Association and president/secretary of Women s Issues Circle, while participating in BASIC, International Connection, Spiritual Life Week committee planning and Thursday morning worship team. She continues to give of her time, volunteering with the Wolcott House Museum Complex in Maumee, Ohio, and the Fort Meigs War of 1812 Battlefield in Perrysburg, Ohio. Flores took a year off after earning each degree to work at the organizations. She says they kept her connected to her love of history, while she took time to discern a career path a path she discovered at Bluffton.

Bluffton was one of the biggest blessings I have had in life, says Flores. I was challenged academically and spiritually; I was challenged to push myself farther than I had ever dreamed for myself.

Flores hopes she presents her students with the same type of learning environment she had while at Bluffton, and she continues to stretch herself in new ways, teaching nontraditional students who are often as old as her parents and grandparents. While she plans to one day conduct research at a museum, she says she ll always be involved with teaching as she wants to be able to challenge others just as her professors at Bluffton challenged her.