My Citizenship Journey
By Rebeca De Vives (September 2013)
I was following a man then, today my husband of some 40 years. He had decided years ago that after graduating from medical school in Santiago, he would come to the U.S. and do pediatric training at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
My story, probably similar to that of many of you, started as a visit to the United Sates intended to last only a short 3 years. Well, time passed by rather quickly. I have been living now in the USA for over 40 years.
Not all was easy. When I arrived in this country my English was very basic, with poor grammar and minimal vocabulary. I worked as a babysitter then as I thought I would not be embarrassed to talk to children and at the same time I could earn some pesos.
I spent long days alone as my husband seemed to always be studying or attending to sick children at the hospital.
I started college after 6 months of arriving in this country and I loved every minute of my business studies. I was fascinated by the team work and intense research encouraged by the business school, a way of learning so far away from the teaching system in Chile where it is based mostly on memorizing texts more than any training analytical skills.
After graduating, I did my internship at Saks Fifth Ave., a retail luxury store with headquarters in NY which includes 46 shops all over the country.
This job required a student Visa as a trainee, which I had at the time.
When my husband and I realized we were going to stay longer living and working in Boston, it was time to start thinking of becoming permanent residents.
By then, I had been working for over 5 years at Saks and had become already a Regional Manager. After filling out all the appropriate paperwork we were called to the immigration office and my husband was given an impressive welcome speech, recognizing how proud this country to receive him as a doctor was. I was handed at the same time, an envelope I did not open, and which I thought was a written welcome to this country as well.
A couple of days later I decided to read what the letter said. To my dismay and great panic, the text read:
“You are being deported. You have to leave the country within 15 days.”
The reason for this brutal note that was I have been illegally working with a temporary work permit which required to be renewed each time after leaving and returning to the US.
Of course I had no idea of this “small” detail. This tells you the importance of being knowledgeable and well coached when applying for citizenship. My ignorance played against me. To make a long story short, I had to fly to Madrid where my father, a lawyer, processed my permanent Visa and was able to join together with my very proud permanent resident husband.
I have had nothing but positive experiences in the USA after this minor episode with Immigration law.
I continued working at Saks for many years and later added a second retail store, Bloomingdales. I was president then of a French division for 84 stores around the country with offices in Europe, Asia and the United States.
I have learned immensely from European and American management teams and I have made a special effort to include women with leadership capabilities in our company. I have proudly succeeded in encouraging diversity within our work force, a multicultural team that became later managers with great business results.
This country owes its greatness to the many different cultures it has hosted throughout the beginning of its history. Immigrants have brought along with them their customs, languages and richness in their food stories.
The United States has embraced us wholeheartedly and has allowed us to flourish in its land asking from us to be diligent workers, to be honest and to be fair.
Nothing more than it has demanded from its own citizens.
I can think of only 3 rules to succeed in being successful immigrants in the United States:
– Immerse in their Culture. Learn their Language. Learn English
– Live among them, do not isolate yourself by living only with those other immigrants from your country speaking only your language.
– Work diligently and honestly.
Be better than other citizens at your job. Excel at whatever you do, whether a street cleaner or a professor, a waiter or a banker. This country rewards good honest work, more than any other country in the world.
I was lucky to have arrived in the country with 2 assets my parents sent me with:
A good education and sound values.
These last one, values, were the asset that truly helped me most in my journey. Education we can all acquire right here, but Ethics and solid values are the ones that will make us extraordinary citizens of the United States. We should all thank the opportunities we have been given.
We owe this country so much!