Humans of UVM: The Bubbly and Unstoppable Kiana Gonzalez

Meet this bubbly and incredibly accomplished Human of UVM: Kiana Gonzalez!kianagym2

She’s the ASL Club President, a Club Gymnastics team member, a UVM Tour Guide, the local McDonald’s sweetheart…

Kiana Gonzalez had just finished writing her thesis focusing on the cognitive relationship between language use when we met in Henderson’s. She’ll graduate this spring with a degree in Linguistics and go on to work at the UN. Also, the local McDonald’s is throwing her a grad party. 

Hi! I get your emails for ASL Club and I’m sorry I’ve still never showed up. Tell me about ASL Club. So lots of professors make it mandatory to go to 3 deaf culture events, and we put on a lot of those, both off campus and on campus. We’re hosting “Harry Potter Syndrome” which is a presentation, and there’s also Starbucks Socials. 

Are you fluent in ASL?  Yeah! Both my parents are deaf, so I grew up signing. First I learned Spanish Sign Language, but then I started learning American Sign Language when we moved to New York. I was born in Puerto Rico but then we moved to the Bronx  when I was about 6.

Is Spanish Sign Language the same as American Sign Language? No, it’s different. Some words are the same, like the word for milk, but there are different alphabets and everything.

Does each language have its own sign language? Yeah. They’re all derived from French, but pretty much every language has its own adaptation. American Sign Language is probably the most widespread, though.

So I creeped on your facebook. Your cover photo… Are you a tour guide? Yeah! I really like it, especially when we get different types of groups. Answering questions on student panels is the highlight for me. I feel like I show my personality all the time, but I’m a jokester so student panels are the prime opportunity to make people laugh.

Pretty much every week we give normal tours, like with parents and prospective students, but then sometimes we give random tours with middle schoolers or something! They’re so fun and excited to come to college and I’m just like “you gotta wait!” But it’s awesome.

Have you had to give a tour in really bad weather? Luckily for me, I never had a tour on a rainy or snowy day!

What’s the most interesting question you’ve been asked on a tour? This one time, somebody asked me, “what type of grass is there?” And at first I thought they were referring to drugs, so I was like “oh um, health and safety is our top priority, so…” and they were like “no no, like what type of grass is on the lawn?” and I was so confused and I didn’t know what to say, so I said something like, “real grass? mother nature grass?” I still don’t know what type of grass we have.

*not sure how we jumped to this, but somehow we started talking about McDonalds*

I’m a McDonalds lover. I go every day.

Really? I thought we didn’t have McDonalds up here!  No way! There’s 2! The one on Williston Road is 24-7, but the one in U-Mall closes at 7. There’s also one in Williston. 

So what do you usually get? My favorite is crispy ranch wrap with a caramel frappe. But if I wanna feel healthy, I get the Big Mac.

What?? Yeah! Fun fact: the Big Mac is the healthiest thing on the menu. I went to a convention and that’s how I found out.

You go to McDonalds conventions? What is that like? Well if you want to know more about the marketing, or eat free samples, or be a part of decisions, you can go. I know, right? Nobody knows about them! Also, I always study at McDonalds.

Are you friends with the employees? *silent, happy nod* I’ve built up friendships over the years, and they’re actually a big part of my social circle. They’re throwing me a graduation party.

So you’re going back home after grad? Yeah, actually I’ll be working at United Nations with the disability policy forum. And hopefully I’ll be working at a hospital same time, interpreting. A lot of interpreters aren’t certified; my parents never had them. But to get certified is something on my agenda.

Is there anything that’s guaranteed to make you smile?  *big smile* Dogs. And funny jokes.

Do you have a joke? This is more of a story but it always makes me smile – so every tour guide asks, does everyone ski or snowboard? And if people say no, I ask them if they’ve seen the movie Bambi? And you know the scene with Bambi sliding around on the ice? Well that’s me!” I don’t know but the imagery always makes me smile.

Have you skied? No! But I went sledding for the first time last winter! It was an experience! Scary. I got up to a medium-sized hill, but after that was done for the day. Back in NYC, I thought I was sledding.. but I was not. People here, they go actual sledding.

OK, important question: If an elephant-sized panda bear wearing a tasteful sunhat approached you on the street, what would you do?  I’d run away! I would see it from a distance and the other way. I would think somebody is pranking me. My friends say I’m really gullible, and I’m easy to prank, so I’m always careful about that…

Can you tell me a prank story?

Yes. So I’m really scared of supernatural stuff, like ghosts, scary movies, all that stuff. I’m really scared of halloween – I don’t go outside at all that day. So this one time we had a movie night and we were watching a Disney movie. Then, out of nowhere, the movie switched to a different scene of a cartoon kitten. For a while I thought it was the same movie, until the scene started getting darker, and then I was like “what is this, this is not Ariel,” and then a bunch of kittens came into my house! There were like 7 actual kittens, but I ran away from them because I didn’t want to hurt them ‘cus I was freaking out. I ran into the kitchen and there was a person in a kitten costume outside my window! And yeah I just out of my house and all the way down College Street. I didn’t come home until my roommates did just to verify it was all safe….

kianagym3That’s amazing! Who pranked you? It was my friends. All either from ASL Club or the gymnastics team.

kianagymYou’re on the gymnastics team too? Yeah! We just placed 3rd in nationals!

Congratulations!! What’s your main area? I really like beam, but people know my more for floor because I dance and stuff.





You keep getting cooler and cooler. What’s the best part about UVM?

Hmm, I have 2 things: First, I’m from the city. Even though Burlington has that Gilmore Girls type vibe to me, there’s so much to offer. So many events in one night, sometimes I can’t even choose. It keeps me busy even though it has its slow, chill vibe. And the other thing is all the interconnected bubbles! I can meet someone and we’re both like, “oh i know that person too!” The connections are really great.

What’s your ideal breakfast meal? Oh that’s hard! I’m a food person… I think that as long as it has avocado and bacon on it, it’s fine. Oh, sunny side up eggs. Or McMuffins. A lot of coffee. All of the above.

Do you have anything to tell the other humans of UVM that are reading?  Oh, I don’t know! Go outside! 


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