Diana Carolina Romero Dinas: “work, work, work”

…work, work, work. Based on my own experiences I would say that the American dream involves a lot of lack of sleep. If you want to achieve your dreams like me, you will probably have to work very hard for them. Although it is not easy, one of the beauties of this country is that […]

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…work, work, work. Based on my own experiences I would say that the American dream involves a lot of lack of sleep. If you want to achieve your dreams like me, you will probably have to work very hard for them. Although it is not easy, one of the beauties of this country is that most of the time, hard work pays off.

I spent many long nights studying, first to improve my English, and studying to be accepted into the nursing program. I had to study even harder while I was in the nursing program. It seems like it never ends. I also spent long nights preparing myself for the board examination. Nowadays, I spend most of my nights working. However, I am happy to do it because, in the end, it has been worth it.

Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.

As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Carolina Romero Dinas.

Diana is a Registered Nurse in the state of Pennsylvania. She arrived in the United States from Colombia, South America, in 2010. She came as an International Student in the Au Pair program. Coming from a humble background, as the daughter of a divorced low-income mother, she learned about the value of hard work. She managed to surpass all her life’s challenges, and go after her dream, become a U.S. resident. Her story is living proof that with hard work and with dedication anything is possible.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Cali, Colombia, South America. I was born at the end of the ’80s and raised in the ’90s in one of the biggest cities of my country. A city that struggled with narco-traffic and many social-economic challenges.

I lived with my mother my whole life. My parents got divorced when I was 2 years old, and ever since then I remember my Mom struggled financially, even though she graduated from high school. She had to work at different jobs to supply all my needs the best she could. Our quality of life improved when my mom inherited my grandmother’s job with the local government as a school janitor after she passed when I was 7 years old.

Then, I started to attend school at the same institution where my mom used to work. I used to help her clean the classrooms after my classes. This experience taught me to not be afraid to working hard. It also inspired me to be a dedicated student because my Mom always used to tell me that the best way to get a better life was through education. She always highlighted the importance of focusing on my education because she wanted me to get a better job and better life than the one, we were having.

My mom also inspired me to be very independent. She used to tell me, “if you want to get to the moon, you should not wait for anyone to bring it to you. Built your own ladder and get there yourself.” Because she was always working, I learned at a very young age to keep our house clean and organized. As an only child, I also spent a lot of time alone, therefore I learned to do all the little house reparations myself. I learned to change lightbulbs, paint the walls, and even cut the grass with a machete whenever it needed it.

During my adolescent years, I was always studying or doing chores around the house to help my mother. This helped me stay away from parties, drugs, and all the problems that other teens in my city might be experiencing. Besides, my mother was overprotective and strict. Hence, my sole focus was studying to be able to get into a public university which I was finally able to do it when I was 22 years old.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?

Thanks to my mom’s hard work and dedication, I was able to attend very good schools. When I was in middle school, I met one of my best friends, who was a United States citizen. Her father was originally from my city and they lived in my country until one year before we graduated from high school. She introduced me to the American dream because she always was telling me stories about their life in the U.S., pop culture, music, and shows. It ignited in me an interest in the American lifestyle.

Thanks to my friend, I grew up watching tv shows and listen to American music, but because of my humble life, I did not even dare to dream to experience the American dream myself until many years later. One day when I was in college working part-time in one of the faculty offices, I saw an advertising for the student Au Pair interchange program. I remember seeing the poster with the information about the program thinking “I have all the requirements to be an Au Pair except the money.” However, I took one of the flyers with me just to keep reading it later.

When I got home and my mom saw the brochure, she asked me what it was about. I explained it to her, and she encouraged me to apply to the program although we did not have the money to pay for it. She gathered the money necessary to help me to apply for the visa and paid for everything after we made sure it was not a scam. At that time, I decided to come to the U.S. for a year to work, study English, save some money to repay my mom, and come back to marry my boyfriend with whom I was planning on spending the rest of my life in my country.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

Since I am my mother’s only child and coming from a low-income household the chances that I could get a visa as an interchange student were very slim. However, since I was 25 years old and I was almost to the end of my bachelor’s degree, the officer was able to see that I was not intending to stay illegally in the U.S. and he grant me a 1-year visa.

In August 2010 I was lucky to come to the U.S., as an Au Pair. I arrived at the beautiful State of Delaware with one suitcase, one bag, my dreams of learning English, make some money, getting back to my country, finish my college degree, and get married to my boyfriend. But after 5 months my boyfriend broke up with me and for the first time, I was able to see all the amazing possibilities that this country could offer. Therefore, I decided to change my dream to find a way to stay legally and become a permanent resident.

I think I also realized that the idea of a good life that I had in my country was not even close to the amazing life that I could have in the United States. Therefore, I visit to a couple of attorneys to asked them what I could do to achieve my new dream. They told me that my options were limited and advised me that my best shot was to get married to an American citizen. To be honest, I considered doing it, but I felt that I was betraying all the lessons that my mom taught me about being an independent woman, and honestly, it is not as easy as it seems.

For that reason, I continued looking for the best way to stay legally in the U.S. I found out that I could stay as an international student. Even though it was very expensive, I managed to do it. I started from zero, I improved my English, obtained my associate degree in nursing and I passed the board’s examination. I found a sponsor for a work visa, in Pennsylvania, and I moved to Philadelphia. After a certain time, I was able to apply for the permanent residency. It took me 8 years, 2 months, and 18 days, but I did it! I became a U.S. resident.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

I have so many. First, my first host Mom, Mrs. Sharon Simons. She opened her house and her heart to me, even though my English was not good. She trusted me to take care of her precious sons and took the time to teach me about the basics to help me survive in the American lifestyle. My friend Kira Davison, her former Au Pair, is from Panama and went through the same program. She helped me to adjust to my new life as Au Pair. From day one she offered me not only her friendship and support, but she also introduced me to her family and friends that later became my friends and my biggest support system until now.

I am also very thankful to my second host Mom, Mrs. Lisa Lawson. She allowed me to extend my Au Pair visa for one more year and sponsored me as international student. I lived with her and her family for almost seven years until I graduated with my associate degree. She and her kids became my family here in the U.S.

My friend Anna Vargas a Colombian nurse who has lived in the U.S. for many years. She encouraged me to become a nurse and show me the path to get my green card through work.

My boyfriend and now my husband, who believes in me, even when I doubt myself sometimes. He also supported me in so many ways. He always encouraged me to continue working towards my degree. He even helped me financially when I struggled to pay my tuition.

My nursing instructors in my community college, who went above and beyond to inspired me to continue working towards my dream to become a pediatric nurse. They supported me when things got tougher at the end. Dr. Doris Griffin, who gave me the opportunity and trusted me with my first job as a school nurse educator in her nonprofit organization.

My coworker Johan, who introduce me to her friend Sonia who help me to get in contact with the home care agency that sponsored me for my green card in Philadelphia. She became my mentor, supervisor, neighbor, and best friend here in Pennsylvania.

So how are things going today?

Things are going well! Although all the challenges, I am still working towards my dreams. I finished my bachelor’s degree in nursing last May even during the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Now I am looking forward to becoming a U.S. citizen. I also would like to become a successful entrepreneur and maybe one day have my own home care agency

I am very thankful for all the opportunities that this country has given me through all these years. I have been able to repay the money to my mom and financially help her. Even though I had many hardships. I was not able to see my mom for 8 years because I could not afford to travel back to my country. I also had to face the deportation of my boyfriend in 2017. A wonderful Brazilian citizen who came illegally to this country when was 16. He dedicated his life to working and became an entrepreneur, had a home, friends, and paid his taxes. Due to the heightening of immigration regulations of the past presidential administration, he was put in custody on his way to work one morning and deported due to an order of deportation that he was not aware of. We had no goodbyes and in an instant our dreams of a life together were gone.

I had some tough times, but I did not give up. My boyfriend and I decided to keep a long-distance relationship. In 2018, I visited I my country and he met me there. I introduced him to my mom, and we got married on January 2019.

Now, my mother and my husband are my biggest motivation to keep going. I am looking forward to becoming a citizen and be able to bring them both here.

In my professional life, I am currently working as a private nurse in the same home care agency that sponsored me. I just got promoted. I am about to start a new position as a field supervisor in the coming weeks. I am also planning to obtain my master’s degree and keep growing as a professional nurse and maybe one day become a CEO or entrepreneur with my own company because this country has taught me, if you can dream it, you can make it true.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I would like to inspire others with my life experiences. I had the chance to work as an educator in a non-profit institution which I continue to support with donations, and I am looking forward to becoming a mentor.

I also share some of my life lessons on my own online journal where I post blogs. I also support my nursing community through my honor society and the nurses’ association.

Although I would like to be more active and get involved with my Latin community in Pennsylvania, I want to inspire other immigrants to keep fighting for their dreams and working towards making them a reality.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?

In my opinion, the immigration system has many gaps which make it very difficult and expensive for a person to come and stay legally in the U.S.

But the three things that I would suggest are:

1. Review the current legislation and create immigration reform: The current country’s immigration laws are tough and difficult to navigate. The complexity of the current legislation makes it almost impossible for an illegal resident to become a legal resident, even though they have been here for decades and already formed their lives here.

Moreover, there are some people who take advantage of this situation and use the system to exploit illegal immigrants. I think is crucial to improve the current immigration laws to allow the people who want to get a better life in this country to do it legally and contribute to the country’s economy.

2. Open paths to facilitate the obtaining of work visas and entrepreneur programs: I think that the solution is not to offer citizenship status or permanent benefits to everyone who wants to come to this country. The country also needs to protect its own citizens. But since most of the immigrants come here to work in areas that American citizens are not interested in, I believe it would be helpful for the economy if the government provides pathways to help immigrants and entrepreneurs that can help to supply the shortage of workers in areas such as agriculture, construction, and services.

I also think that the government should help those who are willing to work for an opportunity to have a better life in this country, by reducing some of the fees and level of difficulty to achieve it. Throughout history immigrants have come to this country searching for the American dream, to go from rags to riches, and with it, we also help our communities to grow.

I always wanted to have an opportunity to get a work permit and pay my taxes. My boyfriend also came to this country as a teenager, and after many years of hard work, he opened his own business and provided open positions for Americans and other immigrants, but unfortunately, unlike me, he could not find a way to legalize his presence before he was deported.

3. Eliminate the barriers to permanent residence and naturalization. There are millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S., and many of them have settled in this country with their families. It would be almost impossible to consider deport all of them. Some economists and analysts concur that it can have terrible consequences for the country’s economy.

These immigrants have kids who have lived in this country their whole lives and only know this country as their home. These families also need teachers, hospitals, police officers, post officers, and all the services that help a country’s economy to grow. If we find a way to legalize all the illegal residents and provide them work permits, they will be able to pay their taxes, get insurance, driver license and many other things that will good for the country in general.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

1. the first step is to imagine, allow yourself to dream. Earl Nightingale an American radio speaker and author, is quoted because he said, “Everything begins with an idea.” From the greatest inventions to the most powerful revolutions all have been possible because someone once allowed themselves to believe that something was possible.

Once, I saw an illustration online which it has always inspire me. It is a staircase with eight steps. Each step has a different person with his own phrase. At the bottom of the first step, it has a little guy sitting and saying, “I won’t do it”. On the second level, there is another person also sitting down who says, “I can’t do it”, but the one on the third level is standing and saying, “I want to do it.” As it continues going up the position of the person changes until the last level is jumping in the air and says, “I did it.”

I do not know the author, but I called this illustration my stair to success. I think the big difference between the two in the bottom part and the one in the upper level is that the first two are sat down and they will not move because they already made the decision to do not allow themselves to even think about the possibility to do it. Since for some of us, the elevator to success is not available and we will have to take the stairs. I do not want to stay sitting on the bottom, I want to be like the little guy on the top-level who is saying “I did it.”

2. You will need a plan, backups, and support systems. Having an idea is important but it is just the first step. After deciding to go chasing your dreams you will need a plan of how you will do it. If you do not follow your ideas with actions, it will be ended as just an idea.

When I decided to stay in the U.S., I explored all my options. I consult attorneys, friends, and other people who already had achieved the same dream. They helped me to find a plan, that it would allow me to make my dream a reality. However, there is a common saying “you should not put all your eggs in one basket,” thus you also need to have a backup plan or several just in case your original plan fails.

Finally, you will need a support system. Most of us come here alone indeed but that does not mean that we must fight for our dreams by ourselves. If you open your eyes and heart, you will see other people who already have been through experiences like yours, and most of them are willing to share their lessons and give you a hand. Listen to them! Most of my achievements have been possible thanks to the precious help, advice, and support of the people who have surrounded me.

3. work, work, work. Based on my own experiences I would say that the American dream involves a lot of lack of sleep. If you want to achieve your dreams like me, you will probably have to work very hard for them. Although it is not easy, one of the beauties of this country is that most of the time, hard work pays off.

I spent many long nights studying, first to improve my English, and studying to be accepted into the nursing program. I had to study even harder while I was in the nursing program. It seems like it never ends. I also spent long nights preparing myself for the board examination. Nowadays, I spend most of my nights working. However, I am happy to do it because, in the end, it has been worth it.

4. Quitting is not an option. When I went to my first orientation in my community college, the president gave us a speech. It was very inspirational. But the thing it helped me the most in the tougher times, was something he said, “in the nights when things get difficult, you will find yourself alone and you probably will hear a voice in your mind that would ask you why you are doing this to yourself. That voice would also say to you, just quit you cannot do this. Do not listen to that voice. Try to remember this first day, remember why you decide to start in the first place and hold on to that thought.”

That idea has been my lighthouse all this time. I had a hold on to my decision to make a better life for me and my mom, and even in those dark times when I thought to just give up. I remembered what our director said, and I shook off those quitting feelings and just keep moving forward. Even now, each time I face a new challenge in my life, I think about the reasons I had to start, my dreams of a better life, and it motivates me to keep going.

5. Be mindful. It is important to look forward to your dreams, but it is also crucial to not focus all your energy on them. In nursing school, I learned about mindfulness and the importance to live in the present and take one day at a time.

If we live in the future our minds might become more susceptible to become anxious. There are so many things that we cannot control, and it can be very stressful. Therefore, it is best to take one moment at a time. Even when we have stepped back or made mistakes, we can use them to learn life lessons and keep moving forward.

I see my life as a boat in the ocean. There are many other ones, different ones, ones bigger than me, smaller than me, some going to the same port while others going in a totally different direction. Just like the sea, life is full of surprises and challenges. like big storms, life will shake us. Therefore, it is also crucial to learn to find joy in our lives, because the sea can also be relaxing and beautiful.

As Thomas S. Monson once said, “we cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails” and I would like to add to it, please remember to enjoy the ride. Because despite the rough days, and storms that might wreck our lives, if we open our eyes and heart, we will be able to find beauty in everything while we get close to our destination.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

1. Our new president. I was so happy to read about the new president’s initiative to create an immigration reform. I am looking forward to being a witness to a positive change in immigration legislation.

2. The faith in the American dream. Throughout history, since the arrival of the pilgrims, people have come here to create a better life and always found a way to achieve it. I firmly believe that the American dream is still alive and more than ever we will be able to achieve our dreams if we hold on to them.

3. The resilience of the American citizens. I have been almost 11 years in the U.S. and one of the things that fill me with hope is to see the resilience of the U.S. citizens, they never stop trying for greatness, they always are searching for an opportunity to grow, and I see my own mindset reflect in these thoughts. Therefore, I know we will not give up on the idea to improve our lives and make the U.S. a better place for all of us.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

If I have the chance, I would like to meet Jane L. Delgado is a Cuban-American clinical psychologist, health care advocate, non-profit executive, and author. I would love to meet her and ask her about her own experiences and words of wisdom.

I would be amazed if I can meet the actress, singer, and entrepreneur, Jennifer Lopez. I admire her so much because she has been able to create a successful career in many areas despite her humble origin.

Also, I would like to have the chance to meet the singer Pitbull. He is one of the biggest names in the Latin music industry. He has been able to be around the world thanks to his continued hard work. He also is an advocate of the Latin American population and I like his message about do not give up on the American dream.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

I am on social media. I have my own Facebook community https://www.facebook.com/tips4live, where I share some of my thoughts and life lessons that I had learned in the last years.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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