Meet Temis Coral Castellanos




It’s nice to meet you! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Temis and I am from Colombia. I am 30 years old, happily married, and I have been in Durham with my husband for about a year. I came to Duke to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Management while my husband is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences with a focus on renewable energy. Currently, I’m working in the Environment Hall with the Green Roof and Orchard Workforce (GROW) this summer through an internship Duke offered. GROW focuses on explaining and promoting integrated green spaces for cities, for example urban gardening spaces. It’s been a great experience so far!

What are some of your hobbies?

I love music, especially Colombian music, and dancing. In Colombia, we just love to dance even if it’s not a particular style of dance. I love cooking as well and when I got to Durham, I contacted Tita, who is part of the cooking club at IHouse, and began working with her. Through the cooking club, I’ve been able to meet spouses from different parts of the world this past year! It’s been so fun sharing recipes with each other and it’s been a good way for us to share our cultures at the same time. 

Why did you decide to come to Duke?

While my husband and I were researching where we wanted to study and live, we found that Duke offered great opportunities for both of us to develop our personal and professional skills while being happy! We also talked with some Duke alumni in Colombia and many of them said “Oh, I love Durham! I was so happy there!” These good references made it easier for us to decide on coming here. Not only is Durham relaxing, but there are so many things to do downtown! The people at Duke are also so kind and really care about your interests and support you to achieve your goals.

It’s great to know that you think so highly of Duke and Durham! Is this your first time in the United States?

Actually no. When I was in college, I applied for a work and travel program and worked at an amusement park in New Jersey for a summer. I worked at the ticket booth, operated some rides, and many other things. This program aimed to bring people from abroad to help them improve their English and to give them a job for the summer. I had so much fun!

Even though you’ve been to the U.S. before, did you experience any culture shock when you got to Durham?

Since I came to the United States before, I was a bit used to the culture, but I still experienced a small culture shock. I was raised in Bogotá, which is a big, crowded city kind of like New York City, so I was used to the hustle and bustle of city life. Everybody was always stressed and rushing to get to work or other places. My husband and I were actually worried about coming to Durham, since we only really lived in big cities and didn’t know how we would adjust to living in a more suburban area, but it’s actually been so refreshing and nice. We don’t feel like we have to rush and we can just take our time. It’s funny because when we were driving to Durham from Washington D.C., we only saw trees along the sides of the road. We thought we were going to live in a forest!

What’s been your favorite thing about the United States and Duke so far?

The people definitely. They’re so warm and they care about you. Here at Duke, they care about you as a person and they want to know about your interest and dreams. The people in Durham are also so kind and willing to help you out. It’s different from the people you meet in Bogotá who sometimes are cold and too busy and stressed to help you out. People in Durham will actually talk with you and make you feel welcome!

Are there any things you miss from Colombia that you wish you had in the U.S.?

My family is definitely the number one thing I miss. It would be perfect if they were all here with us. I also miss Colombian food so much. The food in Durham is amazing since you can find healthy options and food from many different countries, but I can’t help but miss Colombian food. 

Fun Questions: If you could only eat from one restaurant for the rest of your life, which would it be and why? If you could travel to any country in the world right now, where would you go?

Oh it’s so hard to choose. I would have to say Q Shack! In Colombia, our conception of barbeque is completely different from North Carolina barbeque that has a vinegar taste in everything. But Q Shack has the type of barbeque that we would imagine in Colombia, so it lives up to my expectations. I also love hush puppies and tater tots because we don’t have those in Colombia.

If I could travel anywhere, my first option would be to go back to Colombia to visit family and eat delicious Colombian food. My second choice would be Italy. I love the culture there and the food is so good. I would love to spend a couple of months in Italy just living near the country and experiencing its culture instead of traveling around only like a tourist.