Pursuing an education: Ismael’s experience and advice


My life as an immigrant has been overwhelming in many different ways, therefore I feel that I have to share my story. Being an immigrant I can help others through my own experiences by giving examples of my personal social and economic growth. Coming from Mexico, a country where cultural heritage is very important, it was not easy to adjust in the beginning. I had the opportunity to move to the United States in 1992, and it has been a life-changing experience. However, growing up in Mexico, I always had the right discipline that my parents gave me and all my eleven family members. I always learned to be responsible and at the age of ten I was studying and working along my family’s business. This gift called discipline, for me is one of the most important factors to become successful in life. I was very lucky to have this education at home.

For example, my first challenge at my new home country, was the language barrier. I felt like I had to start from zero, and I remembered being very uncomfortable. My communication skills with most people, were basically none and I knew that I had to do something about it. I figured out a way to attend a community school, where I could start learning about my new life. My very first school was in Bakersfield California, where I got a taste of what was to come for me. However, my first community school was College of the Desert, in the city of Palm Desert CA. I started In 1993, just about a year after I had arrived to the United States of America. It took me about three years to finish. It was very difficult throughout my courses, because I not only had to get used to being on my own for the first time, but I also had to deal with many obstacles. For instance, not having my own transportation made me take extra time by using public transportation. Furthermore, I had to learn about my own personal finances. I was making just enough money to pay my bills, but I always kept in mind what I had learned from my parents. My home principles and self responsibility kept me to the top. My first accomplishment felt amazing, when I got my certificate of achievement in English as a second language in 1995.

My next step was to continue with my education by finishing my high school credits, and for that I had a big transition. I moved to Los Angeles in 1996. and it took me a while to adjust to an even more challenging way of life. I had to find a flexible job as well as the right school for me as an adult. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and yet again I always remembered my childhood discipline. The school finally came along in 2000, and my new job as a clerk was flexible enough with my time. I was able to work during the day and attend school at night. Evan’s Adult Community School, gave me the opportunity to graduate in 2003. Achieving not only my GED, but also my high school Diploma. By this time I was determined to continue with my education to the next level, however I was dealing with a very big social struggle. My immigration status was looking very far away from becoming a reality. I couldn’t go directly to college; being undocumented made it very difficult for me because I couldn’t afford tuition costs. Despite of it all, I finally got the opportunity to attend Golden West College, in Huntington Beach. I enrolled in the fall of 2007 and successfully graduated in the spring of 2010. This was overwhelming to me, because it meant that I was the first one in my family to earn an Associate Degree.

One of the tips that I can give to anyone with any social, political or economic struggle is for example: Perseverance. Never give up on your dreams. Secondly, Practice makes perfect.  That’s one key factor that I remember. Working at a restaurant and having to speak to native English speakers, was like having a private teacher by my side. Third for me is music, because by listening our brain starts memorizing different sounds and words and with that I was able to improve my speech very fast. By showing how I have already contributed, I can demonstrate that I have the initiative, people skills, and organizational talent to make an impact in my future at any University I attend. The skills I have developed within the various High Schools, I’m sure will aid to my future contributions. I’m prepared to give back by proving that I got the skills and the tools needed. My evidence to support my skill development; is by talking about how I have built my skill set, by taking a course or through work experience, etc. Analyze my success and failures (when asked for the latter) will reveal that I am a thinking, growing, dynamic individual. And when asked about failures or setbacks, I can discuss my learning experience. I can show how my skills are transferable, and contribute to my classmates or school. I need to show how unique talents or experiences can be, when shared with other classmates, professors, or work colleagues. I can talk about how is never too late for education, and show that understanding and ethics can impact those around me.

I have always loved school so for me even though it was very difficult in many ways, I was able to come through and succeed. For this reason, being 43 years old, does not make me stop from going for more. I’m still going back to school, because I have not been able to finish my education like everyone else. I’m very excited and always looking forward to expand my knowledge this coming Fall 2016.

Ismael grew up in Mexico learning traditional Folk Dances, while exploring other art forms such as poetry and painting. He came to the U.S. in the early 90s and studied English as a Second Language and Arts at College of the Desert. Ismael studied dance and theatre in college. He is continuing to pursue his higher education degrees in dance and physical therapy.


Don’t miss out on the latest resources available for undocumented students, make sure to “like” our page on Facebook. Please consider donating to our platform so we can provide more information and resources to help undocumented students and their families. Any amount helps!

logo3ver2At My Undocumented Life we provide up-to-date information and resources for undocumented immigrants and allies. We post scholarship opportunities that are open to undocumented students, strategies for navigating the educational system, information on how to apply for DACA/Advance Parole, news on DAPA, and much more. Most importantly, we want to provide a sense of community to our diverse group of readers. Learn more about our work here: “About Us

Subscribe to My Undocumented Life (it's free!)

Enter your email to subscribe to notifications from this site

Categories: Navigating College

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Discover more from My Undocumented Life

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading

%d bloggers like this: