Rising Star Looks to the Skies

This fall, Friends has been lucky to host Valerie Porras Anchia, a Costa Rican exchange student with a passion for astronomy.
Many friends know visiting student Valerie Porras Anchia for her love of animals.
Many friends know visiting student Valerie Porras Anchia for her love of animals.
Ollie Hovermill

Valerie Porras Anchia loves astronomy. She wants to go farther than many of us can imagine, and figure out what more is out there. She’s already at the start of her journey because she came all the way from Costa Rica to Baltimore, to start her senior year at Friends School. 

“I dream of doing big things related to research and the stars,” she says.

Valerie is a new exchange student at Friends, only here for the fall semester. In Costa Rica, she attends Monteverde Friends School, also a Quaker school. Valerie has always been interested in coming to the United States – and this year, she has finally gotten the chance.

At Friends, Valerie plays on the varsity soccer team. Thus far, she says she is enjoying herself, and loves the school community. 

But it’s a lot different from home.

“I do like it, but it’s definitely very different, like people and culture and everything,” Valerie says. “I feel like everyone’s always so rushed and so stressed out. And I’m just like: ‘You know, you can relax for a minute. Like, it’s fine.’ ”

Valerie always has a relaxed attitude and never looks stressed out. But in the US, she says, people are always stressed and rushing themselves. In Costa Rica, both the pace of life and the pace of school are much different.

“A perfect example is [that] I don’t have to go to practice every day, like after school,” she says. “And we don’t take sports. We don’t have that many resources for sports and art and stuff.”

Valerie says there are other differences between her school and Friends as well. Back home, she gets homework too, of course. But she has more time to do it, because she doesn’t have to go to soccer practice right after school. 

I dream of doing big things related to research and the stars

— Valerie Porras

Junior Rosa Mangels, Valerie’s host sister, says Valerie was also surprised by the changing seasons here. In Costa Rica there are two main tropical seasons:  verano, the dry season, from December to April, and invierno, the rainy season, from May to November. 

“They don’t have fall in Costa Rica,” Rosa explains. “It’s very similar, like the same weather.”

Rosa says she enjoys having Valerie at her home. They sometimes argue like sisters, but then get along right after.

Senior Erin Nicolson got to know Valerie well when she was spending time in Costa Rica last year for her semester school. The two have become really close friends.

“She’s a very cool person,” says Erin. “She is very artistic: she paints a lot, she crochets. She’s just a really great listener [who tries] to give good advice.”

Erin says both Valerie and Swaty Jiménez-Loría, who came to Friends as an exchange student from MFS last year, have taken advantage of the challenging academics here.

“I’ve never heard her complain, really, about the work. She’s really dedicated student,” says Erin, who spent her own exchange semester last spring at Valerie’s school. “And I think that being here – it was same for Swaty, I think – pushes her to really try hard and be challenged, because at MFS, I don’t think she was challenged as much.”

Being a dedicated student is a good trait to carry on in life, especially for going to college. Here at Friends School, Valerie says she doesn’t feel stressed about school. But she is challenged, because the curriculum here is different than back home.

“Mostly my struggle just has been in general, just being in a new place with, new people. And, you know, new ways of things working,” she says.

Valerie says her interest in astronomy is something she would like to study in college next year. She is interested in the University of Manchester, Imperial College of London, Technical University of Munich, and the University of British Columbia.

All in all, it is a great idea to get to know Valerie, especially before she leaves on December 18. 

Remember how Valerie mentioned wanting to be an astronomer? Well, it looks like she’s already on her way to being a star. 

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  • A

    Anastasia ShownDec 11, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for making MFS and Ticos proud Valerie! We can’t wait to have you back to the mountain.

  • L

    Leon TunctsonDec 9, 2023 at 10:58 am

    This is a wonderful, well written article.