My name is Maria and I.M. Beyond Borders.
Get behind the scenes what I'm calling a "golden ticket," a pass I've been rejected for several years, hoped and prayed for, and recently make my dream come true. I'm doing all of this with a full ride scholarship with a group that full supports me. I won't stop here. If you find this inspiring, please share to show "si, se puede."
Last night, I celebrated New Year's in Paris, France, the country I always dreamt of visiting. Some people here have mistaken me as American, but the reality is incredibly different. Yes, I am American by heart, but I am a Mexican by birth. Another thing they don't know is that I am DACAmented in the United States, and am in Europe only because of what I call a golden ticket-Advance Parole.
My life in the U.S. has been rough since day one. Not knowing the language or culture was a huge back-breaking barrier, but I didn't allow it to push me down. Growing up in the U.S. since I was 7 years old brought me to value this country immensely. It's been the only place I truly know and call home. Regardless of graduating in the top 3% of my high school class, it's been a rough rollercoaster ride, especially now in college. Doors have closed on me because not being a U.S. citizen or resident disqualified me from several college funding opportunities. That didn't stop me: I'm blessed to say I've somehow been able to fight for enough scholarships to pay my entire way to college. I'm more blessed to say nothing was simply handed to me so, I've learned how to work hard for what I want. Part of me is happy because since I received DACA, many doors have opened; however, at the same time, it gave many the authority to deny to us rights that should be fundamental. These obstacles have prepared me for things like why I am here today. These obstacles have empowered me to prove that we are students wanting a betterment of OUR nation.
Many have supported me through my educational journey... (Read More below)
But most importantly, God has been by my side every step of the way. I know some of you might not be religious, but as for me, God has worked tremendous miracles. Since day one, I had faith that He would help me, and until this day, He has still remained faithful. Many people expressed I'd be in a circle of impossibilities because of my immigration status, but God told me to do the possible and He would do the impossible.
This past fall semester, I transferred to a university after receiving my Honors Associate of Arts degree from a community college. Just 3 months ago I found out about this Europe study abroad opportunity that I am participating in now. I immediately had flashbacks of when I was previously not given the permission to go with my community college because I was told my immigration status made everything 'too risky' with a DACAmented student. There it was -- the same opportunity opening its doors to me at a full 180 degrees. Last time, that door to study aboard was shut to me, but this time God opened a greater door for me that I felt that no one could close. Well, here it goes…
The door slowly began to shut at a 90 degree angle. Donald Trump continuously attacked the immigrant community. The fight in the elections had me nervous and then disappointed when I saw the election results. I walked in circles for hours rethinking what was once a safer chance to study abroad. If I left in December, would I be able to come back in January? One DACAmented friend insisted me joining him in the trip. He convinced me to apply, but he unfortunately couldn't go due to financial issues. I informed the director of the study aboard office of my high interest and being DACAmented. To my surprise, he knew a little bit about it, and thus finally convinced me to apply. He offered any and all assistance. The application to the program wasn't my worry though. It was the application to the Golden Ticket for Advance Parole that made me anxious as I researched tirelessly on how to apply.
I was told the process took about 3 months. I had 2 months prior to departure, but a positive mindset telling me to give it a try. I was aware of the high financial risks-- loosing what I would pay for the program, airfare, class costs, and governmental fees. At that point, I didn't care of loosing the money because it felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. God had brought me this far, and I knew that He wouldn't leave me at this time. The trip would be over before the inauguration, thus I felt more comfort in the risk.
Weeks passed and nothing happened. November 8, 2016 came, and it brought something that many weren't expecting, the triumph of Donald Trump as president. That door took a sharp 45 degree closure. I was devastated, but once again I held onto my faith in God. I wanted to study abroad this winter and knowing that it may be my last chance to accomplish this dream before he becomes president, I wanted it even more. That’s how I got my courage to make this happen. Of course, I am human, I feared. I had fear of getting my hopes up and once again being denied a study abroad, but this time, I was willing to take the risk.
Then it became so foggy that I couldn't even see a door anymore. Three weeks prior to departure for the trip: I was losing hope and patience. I called USCIS and requested to expedite my case. Two weeks prior to departure: I got a letter saying the request was denied because of lack of evidence to expedite it. I didn’t' give up. I knew that something was wrong. I had the evidence in my hands, so once again I called them. I told the USCIS Officer about my case and she submitted another request to expedite it as I'm watching the dates on the calendar. One week prior to departure: I opened my mail and the document to expedite my case came had come explaining that my case had been sent to a different department to be expedited. The next envelope I opened that evening was the Advance Parole document. I was crying with excitement, the golden ticket had come. It was in my hands as I slide into the door that had once tried to closed on me several times!
Packing for my trip was crazy. Before me stood a 9 hour direct flight to finally see the world outside of the U.S. and 16 days in Europe. I was worried I would forget another document, but it didn't stop me. I was determined to take this opportunity to study abroad. The truth is that both my parents were afraid, but they knew that God had it all under control. My parents were so happy and proud of me. My family from school was also worried, but continued to supported me every step of the way. Whether it was random motivational texts, or calls to speak to me, they gave me the courage to keep on going and keep pursuing my dreams.
If I look back months ago, I would have never thought I would be were I am now. I thank God every minute because I know that without His help, I wouldn't be where I am now. These past few days I was in The Netherlands and now I'm in France. I have seen greater things than what I had imagined. I have gone on adventures to see many countries, while studying at night. There are times where all I want to do is cry of happiness. I want to cry because I'm doing greater things than what people have told us we couldn't do. I want to cry because of the excitement to be on the other side of the world, studying what I like most- government. I want to cry because I want every one of you DREAMers to have this chance. I'm here on the other side of the world to represent every single one of us. We're dreamers, with a passion to be above average and to take risks that change us forever.
Today is 2017 and the first day of another amazing year. It's the start of many amazing opportunities for us, DREAMers. In the next few days, I will be traveling to Germany, Austria and Italy. After that, I will be heading back to the U.S. Of course I am worried once again. I fear the entrance back to my home could be denied. At the same time, I know I have all documents ready and a clean criminal record, which give me comfort that everything will be okay. I know God has my back and will be right there to protect me.
DREAMers, don't worry. I will be okay and go back home with my head held up high as a proud DREAMer. All the things that have occurred in my life have made me the stronger woman I am today. It has strengthened me spiritually, mentally, professionally and academically. Many people judge us, but they've never walked in our shoes. I'm so thankful to my God, my family, my school, and friends that have supported me in every way. I'm proud to represent each one of us. I'm proud to call y'all my brothers and sisters.
I will be back home soon!
Thank you for taking the time to read my study abroad story. I hope to inspire many of you. Please, do not give up on your dreams. We have gone through so many things, thus we are stronger than we were yesterday. God put them in your heart for a reason, and with Him, everything is possible. As for me, I am living my dream right now, at this very precise moment. I haven't slept much during this trip, but I'm wide awake and hungry for more time. I'm here in Paris you guys, it's a dream come true!