“The first time I came here I was 17 years old as an exchange student. I was a teenager and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Here, through volunteering, one day I got to go into the World Bank building and saw their motto: 'Our dream is a world free of poverty.' So I realised that’s what I wanted to do: to work in this system, towards that goal, and help making it better.
I went back to Argentina and studied Economics, but I always wanted to come back, it just felt right. This is the right place for me. It is very progressive, open and there is a lot of variety. People come from all sorts of backgrounds and world regions. This country was founded by immigrants and has the concept of freedom and liberty at its core – after all, the first settlers were people fleeing from religious prosecution in Europe. The idea was always that you can be free, as long as you don’t limit other people’s freedom. I think that is still alive, and I believe in it - even if there is still things such as equal opportunities that need to be improved.
Still, it can also be difficult to understand social cues, for example. In many ways I am an alien, a foreigner. I have to try harder to understand what is going on around me. I always feel like I have to be friendly, because I am a guest. Sometimes, when I feel the environment is hostile, I don’t speak, so people don’t notice my accent and know I’m foreign.
I am not a typical migrant, I’m privileged and I am aware of that. I did not migrate out of need, but out of choice.
I’ve lived in many places and met many interesting people. I absorb a lot, take from every culture what I find useful and feel like a citizen of the world – while valuing my roots. Some of the recent developments are hard to understand, because this country used to be so warm and welcoming. But in many ways it still is, many people still are, and I will remain hopeful and keep an open mind.
We all need to show by example who is a migrant and why we are coming here: it is because the United States is such an amazing country. And that is not just about money and jobs, it’s also about the opportunity to live a life in freedom, in a country that is built around that very idea."
This is a story by Christine Strotmann.