The Stories of Immigrants Project began as a way for employees at World Education Services (WES) to become more involved with the company’s mission and learn more about the immigrants and refugees who we work to support every day. Over the course of a year, the project blossomed into something more meaningful than we could have ever imagined, touching the lives of hundreds who participated.
Below, read excerpts from our wonderful interview with Mia. Or, you can watch the video now!
WES: Tell us a little bit of your life before moving here. How did you decide to move to the United States?
Mia: I was originally born and raised in Indonesia. I left the country when I was about 16. In the late ‘90s, the whole Southeast Asian region was having a hard time economically. We were going through some financial crisis, and there was a lot of unrest in the country.
Being Chinese-Indonesian, I was a minority in the country; somehow, we just became the target of whatever trouble the country was having. My parents felt that it wasn’t safe for me to be there, especially being a young girl.
WES: How is your life in the United States? Did you face any challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?
Mia: You have perceptions about the United States from movies and whatever you are watching. [When I arrived] I was like, “This is not the America I had in mind.”
I got adjusted pretty quickly. It helps that there are other Indonesians around, my cousins and their friends. We were kind of […] stuck together in a small group.
WES: Can you share any examples that highlight your experience of living in the United States?
Mia: Being an “alien,” as they call it, I’m not exposed to the same type of opportunities. For example, you need a visa sponsorship to start working at a certain company, and not everybody is willing to do that. That’s like a mountain that you have to go through.
Even when I was in Indonesia, being Chinese-Indonesian—the minority—the majority of the people there know that you are Chinese, so they see that you are different from other Indonesians. But because I don’t speak Mandarin, whenever I go to Taiwan or China, they don’t really see me as “Chinese” enough. So, I’m not “Indonesian” enough, and I’m not “Chinese” enough. Coming here, I’m not “American” enough. So, I’m just a third of everything, I would say.
WES: What do you want to say to other immigrants who are considering this journey? Do you have any advice for them?
Mia: I somehow knew that life in the United States wasn’t going to be easy. [I would tell them] that you have to work hard, as it was not easy to make it here. But at the same time, just try to embrace who you are. You might be different, but it might not be a bad thing.
Are you currently planning your own immigration journey?