WVC Immigrant Stories
I came to the United States when I was 20 years old as an international student. My dad completed his graduate studies in Idaho and told my siblings and I how great his experience was as an exchange student. I applied to a student exchange program at my university in Ecuador and was admitted when I was a junior. The first year I lived in the United States, the exchange program helped me to pay for college. I decided to stay one more year on my own so I worked, got scholarships, and received help from my parents to pay for my education during my senior year. After my undergrad, I worked for a year as a laboratory assistant. During that time, I realized I didn’t like working in a lab as much as I thought I would, mostly because I couldn’t come up with my own ideas. So, I looked into options for graduate school. I found out about a researcher at Washington State University who studied chemicals in plants, and I reached out to my friend, who was a graduate student in his laboratory. My friend told me that I could have my doctorate paid for if I worked as a teaching assistant at the university. I applied to graduate school only at WSU; I figured if it didn’t work out, I could go back home. I was admitted and started my doctoral program in 2005. I wanted to learn how to use chemicals in plants to develop medicine because Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world but has limited investment in research and development. I wanted to go back home and start my own research lab.
Life in Ecuador was always centered around family. We lived very close to my grandparents’ homes, and for example we would visit my grandparents on my dad’s side on Saturday and then my grandparents on my mom’s side on Sunday. Every weekend we had the same routine. My best friends growing up were my cousins, who also lived nearby. I didn’t have tons of friends, but the few friends I had were really close. I have friends from elementary school who are still friends with me today! I visit my family and friends in Ecuador at least once a year, usually during the summer or Christmas so I can see as many of them as possible. We chat on a daily basis (thank God for Whatsapp!) My brother and I are the only ones in our family who don’t live in Ecuador.
Honestly, I didn’t plan to stay in the United States this long. I got married when I was in graduate school and after graduation, I wanted to get some work experience. I worked in industry for a year and then completed a post-doctoral appointment in drug development before moving to Wenatchee. My idea was (and maybe still is) to go back home and research chemicals in plants to develop medicine. However, I have now lived in the United States half of my life. My husband and I chose Wenatchee because this is where family lives. My husband’s parents, siblings, and cousins live in and/or near Wenatchee and we visit them often. I want to make sure my kids grow up around family like I did.
How you left your country to live in the U.S?
The reason I left Mexico is because of school. I applied for medical school called Universidad de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico. Over 3500 students apply for this public university and only 250 students are accepted, unfortunately, I was not accepted. My family told me to apply again for the following semester, but I did not want to wait longer; so, I decided to study in the U.S to get my AS-T and transfer to a fourth-year university.
What was life like in your homeland?
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is one of the most touristic places in Mexico. Growing up there made me realize how wonderful my homeland is. When I mean homeland, I mean the people who were surrounded around me. The people from here are so nice and helpful too. They taught me so many things that helped me to become a better person. I really enjoyed living there because there is a lot of diversity, learning other people’s cultures and backgrounds.
How is that different today?
Since I moved here to the States, I notice that most of the people here are cold and serious. Personally, I thought it was sad because in Vallarta the people are nice, but in Washington, it is hard to trust someone; those are my points of view. Izabella, my cousin, taught me so many things that you can do and not do in Wenatchee. Overall, now I know what is normal here in this town.
What is your personal experience in the U.S.?
In the beginning, it was hard because I left my family in Mexico, and it was just me, alone. My cousin offered me to stay with her while I was going to college, and I am so grateful for the opportunity she offered me. Besides, she helped me to become an independent person and to think wisely about my decisions. In the meantime, in college, I was so nervous because I did not know anyone there, and the schools from here are completely different from in Mexico. Having a language barrier was a challenge. Always having in mind that people would make fun of me because of my grammar or pronunciation; but not anymore. The good thing about me is that I adapt easily whether in school or work. Now, I am doing so great in school and work, thank God. Last quarter, I was on the Dean’s list because I got good grades in college, which I never expected of me. Working also in the college, has helped me meet amazing people and to be more involved such as clubs, events, and community service. All those involvements made me think that I should apply for the student government in college.