Coming to the United States to further my education was not easy. When I turned 18 years old I became "the exchange student". I left all my family and friends behind and moved into a new house to a new place and a new high school where I would stay for two years before hopefully moving on to an American college. Although I made new friends and memories I was missing out on others. My sister's graduation, the passing of family members and all of my cousins birthdays. I would not know how much I would miss until I watched them happen from a computer screen far away. I sacrificed those future memories in hopes of getting a better education.
Many people in my country would love to travel abroad for an education in the United States. Unfortunately, corruption and rampant crisis in Venezuela have made this opportunity almost impossible. The biggest reason is the unrealistic financial expectations for school, which I myself have struggled to meet. I have made endless trips back and forth to the Venezuelan consulate to receive money for tuition from my father. The consulate was a long commute but it was the safest and most secure method to ensuring my tuition and visa status remained in good standing.
There's more to it than picking up mail or withdrawing from an ATM. The government in Venezuela controls the currency exchange and dictates how much money we are allowed to trade. The process of exchanging and receiving money for students abroad is not quick nor easy. Making one mistake means starting all over again.
I had friends who would complain about juggling their social lives and school work. I had to juggle the anxiety of worried parents myself my studies and then, if I even had time, a social life. Sometimes the money would take too long. I was lucky to have made sincere good friends who lend me money for food. Free food day at Fashion Institute of Technology, my former college, quickly became my favorite event on campus.
With your donation I will be able to pay my tuition bill and credit card debt (that has piled HIGH up from trying to pay off the tuition bill.) Medical expenses and school supplies will also be covered.
We don’t get financial aid and often don’t qualify for scholarships. We also have to pay double the amount of tuition than in state students. As of this month thanks to the hyperinflation in Venezuela, my father, who is a lawyer, makes roughly $13 a month. I share stories I can find on social media and update my friends when I can, encouraging them to share the news as well.
Last year, the government stopped allowing currency exchange for students, as many as 25 thousand. Venezuelan students that were studying abroad are now in huge debt and I myself have not received any money from them since 2014.
There are so many rules that international students have to abide to that limit our chances to achieve our dreams. I am unable to get a job outside the school because the maximum hours are too small for even part time & it's ilegal for international students . I recently paid $380 to obtain a temporary permit that would allow me to work outside the school till I graduate. (The fee is non-refundable so even if I don’t get approved for it that money is gone.) With luck, I should know by December if I’m approved and even though the permit will only last for one semester since it’s my last, it is the only chance I have.
Back in September the opposition led assembly back home finally declared migratory emergency for Venezuelan students living abroad. It's a small step but a good one that creates a path for other countries to offer help. I am hopeful that I will be able to thrive after all these events. I want to finish my studies and make my family happy.
You can see my artwork on www.danigrillo.com