Updated: May 27, 2022
By: Carol Kleywegt
Have you ever wondered how a person moves to a completely different country and makes new connections? What does it feel like in the process? What new things are most challenging?
AMIS Voices is a profile of students that have participated in AMIS Atlanta. We asked international students to share their biggest successes and challenges in traveling, studying, and living in the United States.
AMIS Voices: Miguel Ashley Hernandez Urbaneja
University Affiliation: Fulbright scholar living in Atlanta attending Georgia State University. Miguel is pursuing a Master’s degree in Digital Media Strategies at Georgia State University.
City of Origin: Caracas, Venezuela
AMIS Participant since 2021. Currently serves as the AMIS Communications Coordinator.
Miguel offered his story in an interview with AMIS blog contributor Carol Kleywegt:
Carol: Miguel, can you share your story of where you are from and some unique things about your culture?
Miguel: I am very proud to be from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Caracas is a city where many important people were born like Simon Bolivar, known as the Liberator of America; and our national hero, Francisco Miranda, who participated in the American Revolutionary War. Our most popular food dish is arepas. We love arepas!
Venezuela is next to Colombia and Brazil and faces the Caribbean Sea and it has an impressive climate. Its location in the northern part, means we serve as the door to South America. If you want to visit South America, Venezuela is the right place.
Carol: Thanks, Miguel. Can you share a little about your family in Venezuela? Can you tell us how things have been going since the pandemic?
Miguel: Yes, of course, I miss my family and I haven't had the opportunity to visit Venezuela yet because of the political crisis. I left my country in 2017 because of the political and economic crisis Venezuela was in. However, I lived with my mom in Peru for almost two years.
All my family is in Venezuela now including my mom. I have five siblings, four sisters and one brother, who are older than me. I have four nieces and a nephew too.
Carol: What was your journey like to live in Atlanta?
Miguel: When I came to the States in January 2020, I lived in Arkansas for almost a year because I took an English course at the University of Arkansas. I moved to Atlanta in January 2021.
When I came to this city, I must confess, I was a little bit afraid because I didn't have any friends. I didn't know anything about the city, only the airport. I think that the first month here was challenging because I was alone. It was a little bit difficult for me.
However, I remember my first AMIS event during that time. It was the Martin Luther King walk. At this event, I met, Irene Wong. We started to talk about AMIS and about everything. At that moment I started to be involved with AMIS.
Carol: Are there ways that the AMIS community can help you or help your family?
Miguel: Yes, I feel that the community of AMIS knows about the situation in Venezuela. And it's really nice because sometimes AMIS members asked me - How is my mom doing? How is my family doing? This is nice because people are understanding about the situation. AMIS is a place where you can go in and share your feelings about what's going on and discuss it with people. That's wonderful.
Carol: You've mentioned that you lived in Peru for a time because of political upheaval in Venezuela. Could you tell us more about the situation in Venezuela that caused you to migrate to Peru?
Miguel: Well, the situation in my home country is very difficult. We have been living under a dictatorship for more than 20 years. It’s very sad. Venezuela has perhaps the highest inflation in the world. We have problems with the health system, the education system, and freedom of speech.
For me as a journalist, Venezuela represents a dangerous place. For this reason, I moved to Peru in July 2017. My life in Peru was a bit difficult during the beginning because to live in a country that is not your country always will be challenging. However, I had the opportunity to create a non-profit while in Peru. "Lima Emprende" is a non-profit that connects and supports Venezuelan and Peruvian entrepreneurs. Creating "Lima Emprende" provided an opportunity to be involved with my community; to start to make connections and teach people. I love training people in areas like social media, personal branding, and marketing. "Lima Emprende" was a great scenario to show my qualities and to show that I am a person that likes to be part of a community.
Carol: As you migrate to different countries, what adjustments have you had to make in the way you live your life and your everyday experience.
Miguel: Wow, this is a nice question. In Peru, I think that one of my biggest adjustments was fighting against different misconceptions or stereotypes that some Peruvians have about Venezuelan people. It was really challenging.
When I came to the United States, I felt free. Of course, the language is one of my daily life challenges. My first language is Spanish, and it can be difficult to communicate. There are people that don't understand; whether that is because you have an accent; or they don't have experience working or living with people from different parts of the world.
What else? I think that making friends not only in Peru, but also in the US can be challenging for international students because we are always busy. Maybe we don't have enough time to hang out with people. Or maybe we don't have enough money. And for these reasons, making friends can be challenging.
Carol: What has helped you with the adjustment to living in the U.S.?
Miguel: I'm really grateful, first of all, to be part of the AMIS community. With AMIS I met my roommate; he is from the U.S. He became my family. He always invites me to hang out with his family. It’s nice because I visited them for Christmas, and Thanksgiving, one of the most important holidays here. They make me feel as if I am a member of their family.
AMIS is a great place to make friends because you can connect to people around the world. People from India, to people from Spain or France, who are studying or living in the city.
You are part of a community that really cares about you and organizes activities to connect with students. For example, in December we organized the World of Coca-Cola tour and the the Martin Luther King walk in January. With every event, you meet new people.
Of course, sometimes you miss your family, you miss your culture; but when you meet people you can make friends and create networks. You feel that you are not alone.