March 6, 2024

“I feel very fulfilled at this time of my life. I am very grateful.”

When it came time to reinvent her life, Karina Taylor chose Great Bay Community College to help her do it.

Taylor, who recently became a United States citizen after moving from her native Costa Rica five years ago, is enrolled in Great Bay’s Digital Media Communications associate degree program. Her goal is to write and illustrate children’s books in the United States, continuing a passion she began in Costa Rica when she published her first children’s book in 2016.

“Books are my passion, and I especially love children’s picture books,” she said. “I already have many stories, many ideas. But I want to be more prepared and learn more illustration techniques on the digital side, to combine it with the other techniques that I already know. I live in Portsmouth now and I heard people were talking very highly about Great Bay, so I decided to stop in to see the campus and learn about the program, and here I am.”

She expects to graduate in spring 2025. She is pleased with her decision to enroll at Great Bay and learn new skills that will help her advance her career. “I think it’s a great school. The teachers are smart and helpful, they are so passionate about what they are teaching, and the platforms are easy to use.”

At Great Bay, she is learning programs such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign by Adobe, and absorbing as much information as she can so she has the tools necessary to complete all the books that she has begun writing and illustrating in her head. She is about to finish two bilingual books – one about a sweet sloth named Scott, who lives in the rainforest of Costa Rica and adventures to North America. The book will capture his humorous escapades along the way, including his first encounter with snow. The other is titled Diversity Love and is a book about friendship, teamwork, tolerance, and love. It also talks about immigration and differences.

Taylor, who maintains a website dedicated to her illustrations, is eager to continue her education at Great Bay so she can turn her full attention to continuing creating books. “The professors are so kind and patient, so responsible. I am so lucky,” she said. “They give us tools that are useful that we can use right away.”

In Costa Rica in 2009, Taylor founded, directed, and taught at a bilingual preschool. Through her work at the school, her passion for books for children grew ever more. She wrote and illustrated her first book, Papercuts, while teaching in Costa Rica. The book focuses on bilingual education through fine motor skills, art, and sensory work.

She studied to be an architect for almost three years after graduating from high school, but switched to education when she discovered her love of working with children. She received a degree in Special Education and worked at the Children’s Hospital and Rehabilitation School with hospitalized children, people with special needs, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities. She earned a degree in English as a Second Language and taught at public and private schools before opening her own school.

In Portsmouth, she teaches preschool at the Seacoast Community School.

Taylor left Costa Rica for the promise of a better life. “Costa Rica is a very beautiful country. Many people from around the world have visited my country and they really liked it. They love the beaches and nature, food, and people. They fall in love with the country,” she said. “But sometimes it’s very difficult there in certain fields, because it is a very small country, and the economy is not very good. Our education is excellent, but once you are graduated, some of the fields are saturated. There are a lot of professionals in different fields and not a lot of jobs.”

She first moved to London, then to the United States, arriving in New Hampshire just before the pandemic. Her husband, whom she met while he was on vacation in Costa Rica, is from New Hampshire.

Because of the global health crisis, it took more than a year for Taylor to arrange for her daughters, Mia and Claudia, now 15 and 20, to join her in the United States. But they did eventually, and both are now enrolled in school – one is in college in Tennessee, who is studying to be a nurse and is part of the Honors Society, and the other is an honor roll student at Portsmouth High School.

It has been a whirlwind five years, and Taylor is relieved to feel settled and working toward a degree at Great Bay that she knows will make it possible for her to realize the life she has dreamed of living.

“I am so happy. I feel very fulfilled at this time of my life. I am very grateful,” she said. “Illustration is my passion. “I do it daily, and I feel like every character I draw is alive.”