Celebrating Our Immigrant Students
Since its inception, our nation has been continually strengthened by the energy of newcomers from countries around the globe. In celebration of our shared heritage as a nation of immigrants, we caught up with several Longhorns to learn about their journey toward the American Dream. Though their stories are unique and varied, they all have common threads of hope, pride and perseverance.
THE JOURNEY TO FREEDOM
Sharafi Bahareh is the daughter of two Iranian parents who lef t their home country to escape a life of oppression. Now a sophomore majoring in public health, Bahareh aims to make her parents proud by following the road to success while staying grounded in her cultural roots.
“My family never takes for g ranted the freedom that is associated with this country. The intangible liberties, such as freedom of speech and religion, are the characteristics that make my parents fully content with residing in t his country. Having the privilege to speak one’s mind and express one’s thoughts without the potential interrogation of a high power is an aspect that they never take for granted. In addition, the law here is well-refined and grounded to a high extent, reducing the corruption that is inherent in legal-systems in other countries.”
When Irek Banaczyk was nine, he and his family emigrated from Poland to New York in pursuit of a better life. Now a recent graduate of UT Austin’s Steve Hicks School of Social Work, Banaczyk is grateful for the sacrifices they made to help him get a quality education.
“My father is now deceased, but my mother admits that America is truly the ‘Land of Opportunity.’ Neither of my parents attended college, yet my mother, grounded in the Protestant work ethic, worked hard, owned two small businesses, and purchased two small properties outside of Austin.
In America, one can truly become the person that one chooses—and my family never lost touch with that.”
A WORLD OF PERSPECTIVE
Belinda Busogi, a human development and family sciences junior, is the daughter of two survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Upon arrival in their new home, her parents made it their mission to create a safe, nurturing environment for their family.
“As pictures of refugees fleeing their country flash on television screens all over the world, it is sometimes hard to understand the absolute gravity of the tribulations and hardships these refugees are going through. Growing up, my parents always reminded me to value the freedom and safety we have here in the United States. Sometimes it is easy to focus on what we lacking life, rather than appreciate what we are blessed with such as housing and food.”
Fifteen years ago, Samuel Cervantes and his family left their home in Monterrey, Mexico to pursue what his parents called, “las oportunidades del otro lado,” (opportunities on the other side). Now a junior majoring in government and communication studies, he is fulfilling his parents’ dreams, taking advantage of all the opportunities the “other side” has to offer.
“A division is created in the undocumented community when the Dreamers are extensively praised. A binary between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrant is counterproductive to the movement. I believe that all immigrants are Dreamers. My dreams are my parents’ dreams; my parents’ dreams are my dreams. Immigrant liberation is intertwined in the liberation of a migrant worker and of a college student.”
IN PURSUIT OF HIGHER EDUCATION
No matter what obstacles come her way, Virginia Gonzales, a neuroscience senior, draws strength from her grandfather who stopped at nothing to provide a better life for his family. Determined to give them the resources he never had, he moved his children and grandchildren from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Texas, where they faced a number of challenges in school, work and at home.
“Being able to enroll in public schools really helped my family thrive in the United States. While not ever y member of my family has been able to pursue higher education, my family has always prioritized and valued education. As a first-generation college student, I am very thankful for the sacrifices my grandparents and parents made. I know that they are all very excited to see me graduate in the upcoming year.”
COUNTING HER BLESSINGS
The daughter of immigrants from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jochebed Fekadu knows all too well that access to quality education is scarce in developing countries around the world. Now a junior majoring in public relations at a leading research institution, she plans to take, advantage of every opportunity that comes her way.
“I think it’s important to remember how blessed you are at times. Even as a child of immigrants, I find myself being so caught up in things that other people globally don’t even worry about. They pray to live a life half as good as the one I am living currently. My parents give me reality checks when necessary, reminding me how good our family has it and how there is always someone else wishing to live like me, or be as blessed as I have been. Just because an issue or conflict globally does not affect you on a personal level, does not mean it ceases to exist.”