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 Norman. 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?
Norman: To know more about me, it is good to know about the country. What is happening now in Venezuela is the reason people like me are making this kind of decision to immigrate to another country.
The move I did was because I need to survive. I tried to stay in Venezuela as long as I could. But […] all the violence there makes you aware and concerned about what is happening right now. And now I’m starting over [in the United States].
WES: How is your life in the United States? Did you face any challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?
Norman: [Now, I’m] a sales associate in Home Depot. People get like, “Why are you doing that? Because in Venezuela, you were a lawyer and an accountant. [You] also had a radio show. It’s kind of [confusing].”
I’m a U.S. citizen because I was born here. I was raised in Venezuela. All my life, I always lived in Venezuela. [But] I had to start with a kind of legal process with the U.S. Embassy because I had problems with the U.S. passport of my son. [So] I’m going to work on the legal papers for my son. After that, I’m going to start to look for a [better] job.
It was important to me to have my two feet here in the United States. You can never pull apart your heart from Venezuela, from your hometown. But it is important to focus on where you are and all the promises you have here. So that is what’s important: to keep moving forward.
WES: Can you share any examples that highlight your experience of living in the United States?
Norman: I started to take classes in the English-Speaking Union in the United States. I tried to find some help, because it is impossible to do it by yourself. You always need advice from people to know how you might go through this process. So, I always talk to people: “I can give you some advice… OK, let’s learn about that, so you can go through that process [successfully]. You don’t become a victim for the first three months.”
WES: What do you want to say to other immigrants who are considering this journey? Do you have any advice for them?
Norman: When you start to miss the place where you lived, when you get new friends and those friends become your family here, and you feel all those spaces, friendships, and you had the opportunities here, you feel that you are growing as a person, as a professional.
I will prepare myself more and more: better English, better skills, better job (of course)—and improve every day in the future. Buy a house, a car. But in the meantime, I’m dealing with the problems as an immigrant. Now I’m trying to make this my hometown. It’s going to be the hometown of my son.
[I’d tell other newcomers that it] doesn’t matter if one day you go backward, [or] two steps backward. This is why you are moving. Never stop.
Are you currently planning your own immigration journey?