As a child of immigrants myself, I was incredibly interested in hearing the stories of others with relatable backgrounds. Each and every student at UF has a story that has brought them to where they are today, and sometimes we miss out on those stories if we don’t take the time to ask. It was really amazing to hear the thoughts of my fellow gators whose families had been through situations similar to that of mine, and to see that we all bring a unique perspective to the table, but still have so much in common.
“I’m mixed race; my mom is an immigrant, but my dad isn’t. It’s weird because everything in my life is so blended. My mom treats me differently than my dad does because they come from two cultures that are so different. Both of my parents are always trying to help me learn and grow, but my mom probably emphasizes my grades more, while my dad is more about teaching me practical skills.
Even as a mixed-race person, I always feel like I haven’t experienced much discrimination because people have always assumed that I am white–or don’t know what I am and just don’t know what to say. I don’t think I was ever treated differently from my peers due to my race, but I also feel like in the past there was nobody who really understood me or my background.
I feel like lot of people here at UF, including myself, grew up in certain areas where their high school’s population was mostly one race and the people who were different stood out. But now that I’m here, I feel like I have a more diverse community that I fit into more easily. When I joined UF’s Filipino Student Association, I didn’t know much about Filipino heritage, and really didn’t know any other Filipino teens, but I’ve learned a lot and now I appreciate my background and my mom’s history so much more. I’m so grateful for the sacrifices she made to come here so that I could live a better life than she did in the Philippines, and I’m grateful to have found a community with similar backgrounds so that I never forget these roots.”
“Coming from an immigrant family, I’m a lot more appreciative of everything I have because I know my parents had it so much worse. They always tell me stories from when they were in the village in India, like how my mom and her siblings only had one toy which they only took out on special occasions, or how my dad used to have to bike to the grocery store in the rain so that his family could eat. I compare these stories to where we are now, and it makes me work harder knowing they had to struggle so much to get here.
As students at UF we are all bright and hardworking, but sometimes I feel like not all of my peers understand the value of hard work in the same way I do. Sometimes I see that other students don’t spend as much time as they should on their homework or don’t study much for exams, and when they don’t do well, they blame the professor for making the class too hard, and sometimes their parents do too. If I were ever to say something like that, I know that my mom would not accept that excuse and would tell me to keep working harder. After all of the work she did, coming from so little and making so much out of herself, she always tells me that what you put in is what you get out.
I am so grateful for everything I have now, especially my education, because I know that I would not be able to get anywhere without it. The amount of opportunities I have here has always made me want to help spread education to those who aren’t lucky enough to already have it. In the city where my parents grew up, there is a small school that my grandparents donate to, and one of my goals for my future is to go and volunteer there. There are so many kids in India who don’t have access to education; my parents are lucky that they did and I am even luckier, but I want to be able to help others who didn’t get so lucky. My parents gave me so much, so there is no excuse for me not to give what I have back to others.”
“I think that I value my education and all of the opportunities it brings more than some of my peers do, because I know my parents worked so hard to get me these opportunities. I know I have to work hard and can’t fail or drop out, because they went through so much to get me to where I am and I want to be able to turn around and help them later in life. If I don’t dedicate myself to my education now, it will feel like all of their work went to waste, and I will have nothing to give back for it.
What really pushes me to work hard is the story of how my parents got here. My parents came to the United States from Mexico only ten days after getting married; my mom gave up her life with her family and came to an unknown place because she wanted to be with my dad and to raise a family that would have greater opportunities than she did. Everything that I have comes from my mom and dad and the sacrifices they made, and to see what they have become really motivates me to keep working when my life seems difficult.
Life is different now that I’m not with my family and I’m here at UF. I came from a mostly Hispanic school, and here I feel like I’m not around as many people who understand my culture and my background. However, I have found groups such as Hispanic Students Association who make me feel so comfortable and remind me that there are other people here with backgrounds similar to mine. My life at school is driven by my future and my motivation to get an education, which comes from my family back home, and it’s nice to have a sort of on-campus family like HSA to help me think about my past as well.”
“My story is a little bit different; my parents are immigrants, but I am actually also an immigrant myself. I lived in South Africa for a while, and I am definitely much more fortunate to be living here now. I always feel safer and protected now that I am here, and coming from another country helps me to appreciate the security of my life in America.
Being here in the United States is a very different experience from a cultural perspective as well; being from Naples, FL, I was one of two Indian students at my high school, and no one really understood my cultural beliefs. South Africa was a very different atmosphere, and seeing these differences in culture really helped me to appreciate the different values of diverse individuals, even if the people around me didn’t really have that same appreciation. I liked meeting different types of people in Naples, but I felt like there were not a lot of people who could relate to me or understood certain things about me.
UF is completely different. When I came here, everyone got it, no matter their gender, race, background, etc., because the students here are used to being a part of a more diverse community and have learned to appreciate the different views and values of their fellow gators. For example, when I go to Chick Fil A and order a veggie burger, nobody here questions me because they understand that that’s part of my religious background, but in Naples it would raise a lot of eyebrows. Being a part of the diverse community here, and the Indian community in particular, has been amazing it because makes me embrace my culture more and understand my background more than I was able to in South Florida. Meeting another Indian student actually teaches me more about myself, and the more I meet, the more I feel like I am really becoming a more culturally aware individual, and also becoming a member of a family here on campus.”
“My dad is always telling me his story of coming to America. He came here on a boat completely packed with other people, experiencing the horrors of people jumping overboard due to hallucinations, dying from dehydration, and more. He was the first in my family to come to the U.S. from Haiti, and then made many trips back to bring my mom and his siblings to safety. Just thinking about all that he went through so that I could have a better life pushes me to work harder every day. Even if my parents get on my nerves sometimes, I am beyond grateful to have them, because I know that they had to take such a huge risk to be here.
I am very appreciative of everything I have, because as hard as I have to work to earn things, my parents worked so much harder. This always pushes me to become the best that I can be so that someday I can provide for them even more than they had to provide for me. One way that I am trying to do this is by always pushing myself in my education. I am so lucky to have be getting an education here at UF, and I want to turn it into a career that will allow me to provide for my family and to help others.
I have decided that I want to pursue a career in women’s health. In Haiti, a lot of women either don’t have access to health care or don’t know where to get access, so in the future I hope to be able to open a women’s health clinic there. I have heard stories of my mom not even being able to give birth in a hospital, which is so foreign to me. The fact that I don’t have to worry about these kinds of things is really a blessing, and it’s my inspiration for wanting to do medical mission work in Haiti. I am so grateful for everything that I have and am so lucky that I could even have the opportunity to give back in ways like this, because without my parents, I would have nothing.”
“My dad was the youngest of four children who were raised by only my grandmother for many years. They owned a family store and had enough money to send all of the kids to college except for my dad. He was told that if he didn’t do well enough on his entrance exams, he would not be able to go to school and would have to run the family store. This pushed him to work so hard to get into college, and motivates me to keep working hard today.
Coming from an immigrant family, I feel like I have a greater appreciation for education and all of the opportunities I have been provided, because I know that my parents didn’t have them. I feel truly blessed; in comparison to the lives they lived, I feel like I was given everything on a silver spoon.
After comparing my own life to the lives of my parents, I have decided that I want to take a lot of time in my future to do mission work in poorer countries. After seeing how much I have and what my parents went through to get me to where I am, I feel like I have a moral obligation to give back. My life has been so good in comparison to kids in other countries—I attend a great university, have parents who provide for me, and have a lot of luxuries in life that others don’t have—so I have to give back. I always ask myself, ‘What is the point in having so much if I’m going to do nothing with it?’ I really can’t think of anything better to do with what I have than to share it with those who need it the most.”