Astrid Dea-Sherman is a 17-year-old girl who loves painting, eats sour candy, goes to school every day, and is headed to college next year; not too different from many of our juniors and seniors at Collegiate. Unlike a Collegiate upperclassman, however, she has lived the last eight years of her life in Sayulita, a town in the state of Nayarit, Mexico. She sells her paintings – often painted on wood she finds on the beach – in a gallery near her home, gets her sour candy through friends occasionally visiting from the United States, goes to school online, and is headed to Portland State University next year, 2411 miles from her home. Dea-Sherman, born in Portland, Oregon, moved to Mexico in August of 2008. Her family had decided that they needed a change of pace and found the sleepy surf town to be the right spot. As a nine-year-old, she said leaving her friends and family “felt like the end of the world,” but she eventually came around, realizing, “the change was going to be a great adventure.” So, at the end of summer ‘08, the great adventure began when Dea-Sherman and her parents left the states to move to their new home: Sayulita, Mexico.
Living in Sayulita – a beautiful place complete with mountains for hiking, a town to explore, and beaches to walk on – means sharing your home town with many tourists. Dea-Sherman thinks positively of the vacationers, claiming “tourism in my town allows me to meet people from different places around the world.” Having lived in Mexico for around eight years, she considers herself a member of a large family of friends rather than a local. A true local, according to her, is someone who has lived in Sayulita their entire life. When she first moved, she was very nervous. She did not know anyone and found the language barrier intimidating. The friendliness of the people in Sayulita, however, soon comforted Dea-Sherman, and she made friends easily at school and throughout the town. Even now she meets new friends everywhere, claiming that, unlike in Portland, in Sayulita “we have conversations with strangers and make friends on the street.”
A normal day for Dea-Sherman means working on her online studies, swimming in either the ocean or a pool, walking through the jungle with friends, and painting for a friend’s art gallery. She has been painting since she was seven years old, and the design on her current paintings stems from an illustration she started drawing at that age. The design started out as a simple sketch, but after her mother used it as inspiration for a tattoo design, Dea-Sherman became captivated with the small birds, continuing to draw and paint them more and more. Now she uses paint on a canvas and wood she finds on the beach to create her works of art. Seven years ago, friends of hers opened a gallery in Sayulita and were kind enough to give her a few pieces of their merchandise. To thank them, Dea-Sherman wrote an article about the new gallery for a local newspaper and made them a painting of her birds. The owners loved the painting so much, they offered to let her sell her paintings in their gallery. She also has stickers and magnets with her signature bird on them being sold in the gallery.
In addition to painting, Dea-Sherman devotes time to furthering her education through an online program. She has used Laurel Springs School, an accredited online school for students grades K-12, to get her education since discovering in seventh grade. Before using the online school, she attended a local international school but left because of the superior quality and convenience of Laurel Springs. Upon first moving to Sayulita, Dea-Sherman could only count to ten in Spanish, but she has since become fluent in the language largely due to time spent in the international school. She speaks English at home, but outside of the house she prefers to only communicate in Spanish, even though many people in Sayulita can speak English.
As a senior in high school, Dea-Sherman went through the college process this year, deciding to attend Portland State University, a college many of her family members attended. During her few trips to the United States every year, she often visits Portland. Last year, on a trip to Portland, her family toured Portland State, and she said, “I immediately fell in love with it.” Having toured and looked into admission requirements a year ahead of time, applying online was fairly simple. When she leaves for college next year, Dea-Sherman will miss the friendly faces and relaxed, slow-paced Sayulita life.