Years to Citizenship
Arrived in the US
What surprised you when you arrived in the United States?
I was born and grew up in a coastal town in Costa Rica called Zent. I came to the United States when I was 16 years old.
I remember feeling somewhat lost. I knew very little English and wanted to learn. My best friend in high school was Dayday. He would help me with my English. We were always hanging out after school playing basketball. He always had my back. He would translate for me. He would tell other kids what I meant and he would explain to me what I didn’t understand. He was also immersed in my culture. I taught him how to make fried plantains, rice, and beans. He was a blessing in my journey.
I remember trying to perfect the American accent. I remember feeling afraid that they were going to think I’m Hispanic and then reject me. I remember going home to look up words that I didn’t know. I wanted to fit in and connect with people. It was hard to not have that. Now, I fully embrace who I am and feel pride when someone notices my accent.
What does your U.S. passport represent?
The first thing that comes to mind: America, thank you. I couldn’t have what I have today in Costa Rica. This is the land of opportunity for me. My U.S. passport represents: privilege, freedom, opportunity, and uncertainty.
What did you gain? What did you give up?
I gave up: Friends and family in Costa Rica.
I gained: An education, a new language, a desire to learn new languages, connection with many cultures, and a new perspective.
What message would you share with a newly arriving immigrant?
Grow thick skin because you will need it. Do what you came here to do, go for your dreams, and you will likely achieve it. This is the land of opportunity. You will cry a few times. They’re going to make you feel different because you are. Be proud of it.