Ana Vidal is Fordham’s very own “been there, done that” professor. She’s like a boomerang; it doesn’t matter how you throw her. Vidal was born in Spain and moved to Madrid at the ripe age of 18 to study journalism before moving to Finland to continue her studies and career. Since moving to the U.S., she's taught at various colleges, published bilingual books, has even filmed her own documentary, and all while finding the time to travel.
1. When did you start teaching at Fordham and what classes do you teach?
I was teaching at a CUNY before, but I started at Fordham just last year. I’m a part of the Communications Department and the Modern Language Department. I was teaching mainly Spanish literature for advanced speakers of Spanish and now Communication Studies.
2. What’s your favorite part about teaching?
The most interesting part is when the students are really curious and there’s a lot of feedback. The classroom creates an environment of debate and interchange of ideas because it’s intergenerational. I’m only in my early 30’s, but I'm another generation. Sometimes our difference is only 10 years and sometimes I have students who are older than me, so it’s interesting how we approach life in different ways depending on where we’re born, our environment, and our education.
3. Besides teaching at Fordham, what else do you do?
I’m a writer and that’s my main thing. I published a novel in 2011, a short story book in 2010, then two bilingual books of poetry that were published in December of 2016. I presented them this January here in New York. I’m also a filmmaker. I finished my first documentary about traveling: road-tripping Asia through China, India, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Besides that I also volunteer. I am now a Death Doula. It’s a person who keeps you company when you are dying, like a spiritual counselor. Basically I give support, because there are many people who go through it alone. I also have another platform that is called Life and Death Talks. I’ve only had seven or eight interviews, but I was trying to see what is their approach to life and death. I think it’s interesting, you know, to see how they connect to each other.
4. If you had to choose between film, journalism, poetry or any creative outlet to pursue for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh, I can't pick one! For me, it’s like completely against the definition of myself. I think that's why I picked communications as a career. We only live once and I think that we have to know and experience many things at the same time. I know that in the U.S. the system is made for you to be specialized in one thing, but I don’t want to limit myself. I don’t fit as just a writer, I need to find different ways to express myself. I also dance butoh, which is a Japanese technique. I like plurality.
5. Can you speak a little bit about what it’s like to be a bilingual writer?
It’s very difficult to translate. My poems, if I write them in Spanish, they lose the rhythm when I translate them into English. Because we communicate in different ways and there are words that cannot be translated and expressions that cannot be translated, even feelings that cannot be translated. You really have to start all over again, it’s a completely different experience and it’s interesting to see how much your personality changes sometimes. The way you talk and your mindset changes with the language. It’s very fun.
6. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Real life, oh yeah. I taught Creative Writing in Miami and I really think that we should write about what we know. I prefer confessional writing and I believe in the brevity of the writer. I don’t like people that invent because I don’t consider literature as entertainment, just another way to experience something real.
7. What advice would you give to your younger self?
8. What is your current life motto and how do you try to live your life everyday?
I like to find new things everyday and engage in new things, and to travel to at least three different places per year. When I travel, I travel for a month at least, otherwise you are just a tourist. I really like to force myself to be in touch with a different culture and learn from other people, or put myself in a situation that I don’t control. I always put myself out of my comfort zone and that way you are constantly engaged in life and you are always learning. It makes you more humble as well, because you are not mastering it.
You can check out her website here to see all of her projects and books!