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 Milene. 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?
Milene: I was born in Chile. My dad was a scientist. We came here because he had a Fulbright scholarship. I was a year old when I first came to the States. My first passport picture was me on the lap of my mom.
Then my father finished his studies and we had to go back to Chile. That was a year before the military coup happened, so there were all these political upheavals. It was a difficult time. We could not continue living there, after five years, economically—also because he could not continue doing his science.
WES: How is your life in the United States? Did you face any challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?
Milene: [The American Dream] is kind of a cliché – the idea of that everything is possible. But I actually viscerally felt it and knew in my heart and my guts that it is true. It took me having to leave a third time and come back for me to really fully realize that.
I’ll never forget […] going through the customs, and the immigration officer just said, “Welcome home.”
WES: Can you share any examples that highlight your experience of living in the United States?
Milene: I especially like being in New York. I do not feel a foreigner; it is full of foreigners here in New York. It is hard to find a person who grew up in New York all their life.
WES: What do you want to say to other immigrants who are considering this journey? Do you have any advice for them?
Milene: Because you lived in different cultures, you have the flexibility to understand that there are different cultural codes. There are different meanings. It does expand your sense of awareness and sense of tolerance towards other people, but you also have this internal compass of knowing for yourself. What do you consider right? What do you consider wrong? There are already standards of what is good and bad, and you have to look inside and discern that for yourself. That is more of an internal journey.
[I would also tell them]: Although it can be difficult making it here in New York, you do have a sense that things are possible here.
Are you currently planning your own immigration journey?