A strong independent woman is not someone who learns to live alone and is not necessarily a feminist. A strong independent woman is not someone who has found happiness and has everything she ever wanted.
I am an independent woman. I need people around me to be happy, and I am not a die-hard feminist; however, I am someone who does not fit into a stereotypical society, who is self confident, and who wants to use her voice to advocate for change. Moreover, I am a strong independent woman because, at the age of 18, I left my home and family in Venezuela and moved to the United States without knowing what I was looking for. But here I am. Four years later, two different cities, two different universities, and too many lessons learned.
When I first got to Miami, I felt insignificant, almost invisible. I was in a new school, surrounded by people I’d never seen in my life and who spoke a different language than I did. The rules, the people, the system… everything was different from what I was used to knowing.
The first couple of months were hard. I felt lonely. It was even more challenging knowing that my parents would not be there when I needed them. That if I had a problem, FaceTime was my only salvation. But after four years, many things have changed including transferring from Florida International University to the University of Florida. Others have remained the same.
"Oh, you have an accent. Where are you from?" is what people often ask me. "Wait, so you are Venezuelan and a journalism student?" Usually, I respond by nodding my head while my face conveys a feeling of "yep, you got that right," but in my mind, I am thinking if what I'm doing with my life is the right thing.
Being an international student can be difficult for many reasons, mainly because we do not have the same privileges as American students. I am currently trying to find a job that can give me a work visa to stay in the US and not return to Venezuela. American students do not know this because they do not need to. They can go to bed without worrying about the uncertainty of their future. They also do not need to worry about not being able to go back home.
But being an international student also has a bright side. I am the woman I am today because I had to build a new toolkit to defend myself outside my comfort zone. I also think about everything I have learned and how proud I have made my family. I have learned self development, maturity, and understanding to prioritize the important things in life and appreciate them.
I have dreamed about waking up in my room in Caracas countless times, but being an international student has taught me more about life and adulthood than I could ever think of, and I am forever grateful for that. I understand now that the education and knowledge I have received, in and out of school, has made me who I am. It has brought me here- to write these words.
Most importantly, I feel strong, like I can figure everything out on my own (well, almost). I am more committed to my goals and aspirations and more aware that I am the only one who can achieve what I am longing for. Being international has made me feel insecure countless times, but from that insecurity, from that fear of being different, a strong and independent woman emerged with the power and desire to conquer the world.