My name is Alejandra and I recently graduated from Tufts University this past May!! Yay! Although this is not my first time on this site (check out my first article where I talked about applying to college), A LOT has changed since I last wrote a post in 2017. In this post, I want to share my reflection and experience regarding graduating while undocumented during the Covid19 pandemic.
Graduating as an undocumented student without DACA was rough! There was the uncertainty, the fears, the disappointments and everything that comes with the immigrant experience. When I was given a full scholarship to attend college in 2016, I thought I had made it. I felt on top of the world, and I knew that very few undocumented students were ever given the chance to go to college. Although I was very thankful, as graduation day approached, the fear and uncertainty about the future started to kick in. What happens next? Who is going to hire me? Will I be able to use my degree? Was college even worth it if you can’t use it? All these questions started to come into my head and anxiety invaded my body. Then my future became even more blurry at the onset of the Covid19 pandemic. I had to leave campus earlier than expected and I was not able to celebrate an accomplishment I was so proud of. The thought of graduating was frightening. School was my safe place; I didn’t have to worry about food, shelter, or the immigration checkpoints that are in my hometown in Texas. Most of my family is in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, a border town near the border that faces constant surveillance.
When I left the university setting, I felt sad. I was so anxious about my future to the point that I was too depressed to attend job fairs and networking events thinking they didn’t matter if I didn’t have a legal immigration status. My status came to define me and it made me feel hopeless.
I then realized that I had to try and find a solution. Desperate times bring your most creative side, and if there is anything I am thankful for, it is the HUSTLE that my immigration status brought into my life. Now I laugh about all the things I did in college to get extra money: from babysitting and waitressing to plugging cables in my head for Harvard science studies. I smile when I think about it because my experience reminds me of the immigrant hustle, that although for many is not a choice, we always make things happen. Because of my status I have always been hustling, finding ways I can make extra money under the table. My status made me creative, movida, and a great networker especially since many job opportunities are through word of mouth
At the onset of the Covid19 pandemic, I saw many online businesses that were thriving which showed me the importance of developing digital skills. Times like these showed me how important it is to have an entrepreneurial mindset and how we can make money from many skills we don’t even realize we possess. About two years ago, for example, I was introduced to LLC creation and independent contracting, which is a way for undocumented folks to have thriving businesses using their current skill sets, such as interpreting, translating, writing, graphic design, and much more. Through independent contracting, I am able to employ myself and make an income with many hustles such as affiliate marketing, social media branding, and recently becoming a consultant for a cooperative called Radiate consulting. I want to make the following blog talking more about this last one because it is truly a life changing experience, so make sure you check that out!!
If you identify as undocumented and are getting ready to graduate from college, here are a few pieces of advice I have regarding entrepreneurship pathways: .
- Use this time to invest in YOU!! We are going through difficult times and while money is important, it is key that you take care of your mental and physical health because only then you can have the energy to make more money and help those around you. ALWAYS fill your own cup before you pour into someone else’s.
Start brainstorming on skill sets you currently possess and think in ways you can generate income. Are you a good writer? Do you speak a second language? Do you know how to use social media? Start thinking of everything you currently know how to do and how you can improve these skills. Consider creating a YouTube channel, starting a blog, or learning a digital skillset.
- Create an LLC ( Limited Liability Company) and build your own business online. For example, do you feel passionate about makeup, social justice, or traveling? You can create a store or a brand that can be monetized in the future. For more information on creating an LLC while undocumented, you can check out these resources created by Immigrants Rising.
- Invest in learning a new skill! Maybe you want to be a certified translator, or get into real estate, or you want to start your social media business. Reach out to mentors and invest in a course that can teach you how to do it effectively.
- BE PATIENT WITH THE PROCESS. Understand that because the Covid19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges that come with being undocumented and we are not following the regular path, it will take time and at times it will be harder. But I encourage you to reach out to others for support and be patient with the process.
If you made it to this part, THANK YOU!!! I am deeply inspired and honored to contribute to this blog. It was because of this blog that I even knew I could attend college and through this site I have met many amazing people.
Alejandra was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the U.S in 2012. She lived in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and graduated from Tufts University with a degree in American studies and education. Because Alejandra didn’t qualify for DACA, she has now created an income through entrepreneurship, where she continues to learn and grow to be a conscious entrepreneur and educate other immigrants about business creations and ways entrepreneurship can be used as a powerful form of resistance
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At 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“
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