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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.