From Venezuela to the US: An International Student’s College Dream
By Prachi Lalwani
My name is Prachi Lalwani, and I am an international student from Venezuela studying International Relations with a minor in Political Science and certificates in Latin America, Caribbean Studies, European and Eurasian Studies, Peace Corp, and Human Rights and Political Transitions. You might be wondering how I ended up in the US or how I knew that this was the career I wanted to follow.
Being born in Venezuela to parents from India has allowed me to see the hidden parts of each culture, experience college differently, and live the best of both worlds. With that, I have also experienced the hardships of being silenced and deprived throughout my life. I hope one day to change this unfortunate reality for women in India and globally. I got the chance to travel to India when I was twelve, and it was then that I saw how oppressed the women there were. They couldn’t express themselves freely, go to school, or even eat some of the same food men do, which hurt my heart. From that day, I decided that I would strive to help these women to the best of my ability because I want them to experience the same freedom and opportunities that have blessed me today.
As a Venezuelan growing up under a dictatorship has also shaped my mindset of what democracy and freedom are, which of course, allowed me to learn to look at the bigger picture. There is a bigger perspective, a bigger reality, and another side. I learned to see the world from an inclusive and more respectful perspective because everyone has the same right to stand for their voice, and their experiences are just as valid as mine.
My work is driven by my genuine passion for helping and compassion for people. I believe we are all created equal and should do the most to support each other. This issue of equality and women’s rights is essential because I believe life is about more than rudimentary day-to-day survival; it’s a gift. I want to use my experience to help make the lives of others better and help make the world a better place. I aspire to work in the United Nations and be a UN ambassador. After all, if I can help others find their voice, they will be inspired to do the same, and like a chain reaction, global women’s rights will be achieved.
Little by little, I am building experiences to impact my community and help those around me. The experiences I strive for have helped me make the skills to create a social impact. For that reason, I joined several organizations related to my career, such as Model United Nations, Millennium Fellowship, Student Ambassadors, and more, to develop leadership skills. I genuinely have the desire to make this world better. Everything I have written has been a part of my vision to put into practice everything I have learned through knowledge. That is my platform.
Since I was a kid, I have always dreamed of doing something bigger than myself, and I knew that to do it, I needed to go to the next level. And I knew being part of a US university, the largest university in the country, would give me that. I have faced several challenges, such as learning the language, being far from home, and fighting for our future.
Personally, I have encountered challenges in my career in finding opportunities due to my citizenship, but I believe that the university doesn’t make you, but you make the university. FIU, including my friends, professors, and the program, has allowed me to discover who I am and how to reach my full potential and succeed in my classes.
As an international student, I want to see all the students have the same opportunities to achieve their dreams, not allowing a paper to define their future. So, my biggest advice for an international student is to go out of your comfort zone and look for those opportunities. For example, as international students, we cannot work for the government. Still, through a class, I had the chance to do a fellowship which allowed me to explore that part of my career that was limited.
I would never have known what I liked if I didn’t go and explore different areas. For example, in the beginning, I wanted to do human rights and diplomacy. Still, a few months before graduation, I discovered I was in love with International Development. Together, all of these college experiences ultimately boil down to four pieces of advice:
1. Be involved (organizations, honor society, programs)
2. Expose yourself to get experience and take challenging classes
3. Ask if you don’t understand the process. Half of the time, we lose opportunities because we don’t know they are there or if we can take them
4. I encourage you to use your voice (you matter)
My main question for you is, what ignites your heart? What inspires you? Once you find that-go for it. You are a step closer to achieving those dreams. I know that by identifying and understanding my dreams and inspirations, I have gotten where I am today. If you, too, find your passion and work towards experiences that help you put that passion into practice, then we are one step closer to building a better world one dream at a time.