I met Kevin Silverman Serra ’19 on the first day of Ephventures as a nervous Where Am I?! leader with no idea of what to expect. I could not have possibly expected Serra, but I was exceptionally lucky to have him in my group. Whether he was constantly complimenting me and my co-leader or carrying the team when it came to finishing our Vermonster – thanks to his experience as a competitive eater – Serra was a joy to lead, and he was even more fun to interview.
Tell me about where you come from.
That’s a fun story! I was born in Spain, my dad’s Swiss-American and my mom is Spanish. I’ve lived in Spain, Miami and the Dominican Republic. I lived in Spain when I was little. That’s where I learned Spanish and Catalan. Then we had to move to Miami because of my dad’s job. That was really cool because I love Miami, that’s my city. A couple of years ago we moved to the Dominican Republic because it’s my dad’s passion, he loves it there. It’s given me a really wide variety of experiences, but I’ve always lived in major cities. Ironically because I’m such a city person I wanted to go to somewhere where I could pause for a moment and just be still. That’s why I wanted to go to Williams. I know I’m going to live in a city for the rest of my life.
Which is your favorite city?
My favorite place in the world is a place I’ve never lived in, per se, but every summer when we were going back to Spain, when we lived in Miami, we went to this town, a place called the Costa Brava. It’s in northeastern Spain, and it’s just a small little fisherman’s town. It’s where my family used to live in Spain. So my grandparents had an apartment there and we always used to visit and it was just so peaceful. It was just really different. It felt like I belonged there. Honestly that’s the thing I miss the most being at Williams, just being next to the sea. It’s not something you think about, but looking into the water is just so majestic. Makes me feel kind of like there’s infinite possibilities.
Yeah, I miss the beach too.
No, I hate the beach. Oh yeah, that’s funny. I just hate the beach because it’s so dirty usually; the sand is dirty, seaweed gets inside your bathing suit and it stings whenever an eel hits you. Sea is good, land is bad. Mountains are alright. Cities are good. We’re meant to be protected from nature.
Is that why you chose Where Am I?! over Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-Years [WOOLF]?
Speaking of Where Am I?!, I distinctly remember you saying “I don’t enjoy eating a lot of hotdogs. I do it for the audience.”
This is true. [Laughs.]
Would you be able to you tell me how exactly you got involved in competitive eating?
That was in middle school. That was very limited. Those were the days in which I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I wasn’t particularly good at anything, but I was a big boy. And being a big boy, I thought, you know what, I bet I can eat this faster you. And I did eat it faster than you. Did it taste good? No. But it just felt good at the end, saying “I could do this better than you.” I have this very American sense of competitiveness. My competitive eating career got cut short once I moved to the Dominican Republic, but I think my heart appreciates it very much.
Biggest success [was] at the state fair when I ate all those hot dogs. I was up against 25-year-old men!
How many hot dogs?
I’m no Kobayashi, but I guess it was 25 in 10 minutes. I don’t even know how I got into it. I would never do that again.
On another note, what are you interested in studying?
I’m taking German 101, a class on the 14th Amendment and meanings of equality, a comparative literature course and a political science course. I’m really just interested in how we tell stories and what we value. I feel like comparative literature, history and political science really show what humans want to believe, what they want to understand.
So you’re thinking of being a political science major – have you been following the presidential election?
I am following the elections closely, and it’s only fun if you take it with humor. Especially if you consider the serious discourse going on in some other nations right now, including my own home country. In Catalonia right now, the parliament is trying to secede from Spain, and this is something I have very adamant opinions about. I follow it closely. I don’t know what will happen, but it will affect me and my sense of identity deeply. I just think it’s so funny how in the U.S. we’re following a showman and all of these crowds of people that really aren’t saying anything, and across the world, in places that we Americans think we’re better than, they’re actually having serious discourse.
So, do you have any potential majors in mind?
I don’t know what I want to do, but what I do know is I want to be able to speak eight languages by the time I’m 30. Right now I speak English, Spanish, passable Catalan. I can flirt in French and I can write pretty well in French and hopefully two and a half years from now I’ll speak German. And I want to study Korean here at some point. I feel like languages are really important because even if you don’t go in depth with them, you still understand the way people think. And I’m making a list of all the places I want to live in. I want to live in Germany at one point, Barcelona, Bogota and Dublin. And New York.
Have you been to New York City?
I spent a summer there. I was representing an NGO at the United Nations. This was during a really interesting time because they were representing the sustainable development goals. So there was a lot of interesting conversation, and I met a lot of interesting people, including my hero U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. I kind of felt like I wasn’t ready for the city, and I was overwhelmed, but at the same time it was the most eye-opening moment of my life to be living alone for so long in New York.
Not being ready for things and doing them anyway is kind of a theme in your life.
I mean, you’re never going to be entirely ready for everything. I guess I’ve started to accept that I’m not going to be ready for things but it’s important to go through with them anyways. Even if you’re prepared for something, you’re not going to feel ready for it. Especially if it’s living somewhere completely different.
Were you ready for your first year at the College?
I came into Williams with really specific goals. I really wanted to focus on my academics and to find myself but I realized quickly that those two goals are really big … I limited my scope but with unreachable goals, if that makes sense. I don’t think there’s such a thing as finding yourself. I’m not going to define who I am in my four years here, nor will I radically become an academic superstar. So I feel like once I got here I kind of dropped any plan I had and decided to just wing it and be myself. Which in the end I feel has worked out a lot better.