Embracing A New Adventure (while reflecting on the past)




When packing for my study abroad trip, I couldn’t help but reflect on the journey that led me here. Moving between Peru and the United States during my childhood caused me to lag behind culturally and academically throughout elementary school. With the help of my parents, who constantly emphasized the value of education and the sacrifices made to allow me to study in the US, I was able to catch up to my peers each time and advance my education. All the life battles I faced up to my high school graduation were aided by the fact that my parents believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Before my university semester started, my friends helped me see that I had a serious people-pleasing problem, even when it came to shaping my own future.

If it wasn’t clear before, every achievement I have gained has been in the name of my family and to make them proud, never for myself and my happiness. Being successful in my tasks made me momentarily happy, but that was before I found my next goal to devote myself to. However, observing my friends who were also high achievers like me made me unable to ignore the one thing that set us apart any longer – their accomplishments were merely enhancements of who they were as people, and it helped make them amazing. It forced me to stand up for myself after 20 years of following what was expected from me.

To ease your worries, I decided against any drastic changes that I wasn’t comfortable with before and instead chose to focus on the little things first. This meant taking a little more time for myself in the mornings, allowing myself to do anything other than studying on the weekends, and involving myself in hobbies unrelated to my major just for my happiness. My entire family thankfully respected my decision, a big part of it probably having to do with the fact that I didn’t deviate from traditional ideals at all. In Latino culture, success is often seen as being a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. As a Computer Science student at George Mason University considering minoring in Software Engineering, it’s safe to say that I have fulfilled the “engineering” requirement.

When I confirmed with my advisor that studying abroad was the right decision for me, I was happy to see that my family was just as enthusiastic about this opportunity as I was. They were slightly worried, of course, especially as I have never been to Belgium, let alone Europe, but it was a loving kind of worry. The extensive contributions to art through architecture, paintings, and music in Belgium also helped in winning them over just as it had done to me. I feel like this is my first major opportunity to “live my life to the fullest” and focus on building a future I am proud of, whether that is through who I become or my professional accomplishments, with my most hopeful one being in a publicly traded technology company as a software engineer.

If any part of my journey resonated with you, please join me in my self-care era as a reminder that it all works out in the end through the FEA website. See you soon, Belgium!

With all my love, Jimena