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WES Stories of Immigrants

Immigrant Stories

Norman Valdez, Venezuela

Norman left Venezuela as the country goes through the biggest economic and political crisis in its history. Listen as he shares his story of leaving his home country in turmoil to build a new life in the U.S.

Milene Fernandez, Chile

Born in Chile, Milene and her family left the country when she was a child. She eventually settled in New York.

Mia Wijaya, Indonesia

After political instability forced Mia’s parents to send her from Indonesia to Malaysia to finish secondary school, Mia decided to study in the U.S. and is now making her career in media.

Omar Kallon, Egypt

Born in Egypt, Omar settled in the U.S. as refugees in 2001. As a child, Omar overcame the language barrier that prevented him from communicating with teachers and other students. He is now a graduate student at Columbia University.

Clara Lagos, Colombia

Clara left her family in Colombia in search of economic opportunities in the U.S. Nearly 40 years later, she reflects on the struggles and successes in reaching her goals in her new home.

Mariam Assefa, Ethiopia

Mariam started her life in the U.S. as an international student at the University of Buffalo and went on to become WES’  CEO from 1982 until her retirement in 2019.

Alissa Soutina, Russia

In the early 1990s, Alissa and her family left Russia in search of more economic and political stability in the U.S. Alissa recounts her experiences when she first arrived and how she made New York her home.

Tiziana Rinaldi, Italy

Tiziana moved from Italy to the U.S. in 1990. Though she felt welcomed when she first arrived, she soon began to feel isolated and lonely. Watch Tiziana’s story to learn how she overcame the challenges and became a successful journalist.

Niurka Melendez, Venezuela

Niurka fled Venezuela in 2015 to join her family in New York after the country’s economic collapse. Now she has founded her own non-profit, Venezuelan and Immigrant Aid (VIA), to empower newcomers with information about available resources.