“What makes me the most optimistic about the US’s future is the American people. America is always been great and the land of opportunity. We’re in a stronger position than many people realize. America still has the world’s largest economy and the most powerful military. The dollar is the world’s reserve currency; we’re still the single most attractive destination for immigrants and we have the world’s best customer base for other nations to target. We have more soft power and cultural influence than any other nation in the world and we’re still the planet’s only Super Power.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Abi Maria Gomes Realtor with Engel & Völkers. Abi is an Entrepreneur who started a beverage brand called xi açai. She was a Castaway on the hit TV show SURVIVOR (Philippines and Second Chances seasons) and she was cast on Celebrity Fear Factor on MTV w/ Ludacris
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in the interior of Brazil, in a city called Goiânia in the state of Goiás. I had an intense yet creative childhood with many ups and downs. My parents struggled at times. They had me and my brothers at a very young age. My older brother was a stillborn baby, I was born very sick and my younger brother a premature baby.
A little bit about my family’s background: My mom comes from a mixed race family. My Dad was the only boy out of 3 sisters, they grew up very simple, religious and conservative in a little village.
Growing up in South America was very inspiring, colorful, warm, musical, tropical and dreamy. And I don’t resent my family for struggling so much when I was young, it gave me drive. My parents always encouraged me to go after my dreams, read books, study/work hard and be independent.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?
The trigger point that made me want to emigrate to the USA was based on the “ American Dream”. As a little girl in Brazil I had a lot of dreams and aspirations. And living/being from where I come from, it was going to be a lot more challenging to get to where I wanted to get. I was raised to be very independent and career oriented. I feel that Brazil is still very much a developing country with many bureaucratic roadblocks that makes it harder to succeed as a woman. The political climate and corruptive issues are also a major problem. I needed a platform to act on these dreams and America provided the perfect stepping stone for my dreams to come to fruition.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
My father wanted me to finish my academic studies in Brazil before I ventured out in the big world. Unfortunately, my dreams were bigger than he could have ever anticipated. I wanted to fly high, explore, meet people from diverse cultures and speak multiple languages.
My father was against my American Dream from the beginning but that wasn’t enough to keep me from pursuing those dreams. I left Brazil in 1999 with $20.00 dollars in my pocket and never looked back. It took 4 years for my father to understand and accept my decision to leave.
Leaving Brazil was bittersweet. I have such a great love for my country and that has never changed; Brazil will always be home. It was an emotional experience from the start. When I left, I felt a mix of vulnerability and strength, doubt and hope, anxiety and confidence.
My journey to the american dream started in New Jersey. I lived and worked for a family as their aupair and took ESL ( English as a Second Language) at Union County College.
Finally on a beautiful sunny day I arrived in California. The San Francisco Bay is where I first became Naturalized an American Citizen.
I worked hard and studied even harder. It has paid off more than I could have ever imagined. I would not be the same person today if I did not believe in myself.
Not being afraid of executing and taking on opportunities life throws at you is key. And remembering that you will win a lot when you fail, because that is how you learn. Don’t be afraid of the journey, it is the best part of it all. Being focused, adaptable, resourceful but most of all social!
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
Growing up, I had a Fairy Godmother. She was an inspiration to me as a child and always treated me like one of her own. Her name is Betulia Eriksson.
Betulia has always been great friends with my parents and brought me one of the greatest gifts I could ask for: knowledge. She opened my wide eyes with her stories of far off places, funny languages and incredible experiences. Betulia created a yearning inside me that grew over the years.
When I was a kid she promised me a trip to Sweden if I kept my grades up. When I finished High School in Brazil, Betulia fulfilled that promise and it changed my life. Shortly after high school, I took a plunge and moved to Sweden. There, I went to school in Gothenburg, Stockholm and worked as an Au Pair then on an Expedition Vessel as a prep cook. Betulia supported me through and through and I am forever grateful for her impact on my journey.
So how are things going today?
Life is full of ups and downs, and I definitely didn’t take the straight road. It has been a journey, an inspiring one, a hard one, a fulfilling one.
Each person has a different version of the American dream.I fought to get to where I am now. Complacency has never been an option.
Life happens and your goals do not care about your problems. Throughout my journey I kept the aim in mind, continued my studies, took on and created opportunities for myself as well. I work hard, am independent and confident to say that so far I have achieved “My American dream.” But it doesn’t stop there, I am going to continue building on my growth.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I feel very blessed to have a platform and take it very seriously. I love to inspire kids and people of all ages to get an education, feel empowered to work towards and go after their dreams. Help people believe they can do what they thought they would never be able to do.
Hopefully sharing my story and drive with friends, family, and people around me empowers them to get out there, face their fears and get this thing called life done!
Since getting involved on tv, it has given me a wider platform to talk about the issues that have been important to me. Donating time and helping raise funds for a variety of causes and charities that are impactful in people lives.
Using my voice for the better is the greatest gift God has given me. I hope my voice can echo and positive seeds can be planted. From these seeds we can all grow and empower change for a greater positive future for all.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?
The immigration system is a very complex topic. And I think more people should learn about it and research on it as it impacts our economy greatly. I was personally very lucky when I traveled and lived abroad,I did it all legally. I got work visas as an au pair and traveled that way. Back when I moved to the USA I got sponsored for my green card and went on to apply for my citizenship, before 911 happened.
If I had the power to improve the system I would encourage our leaders to work together. Immigration is an understandably touchy subject. America has long welcomed immigrants to our shores and it is a fact that we are a nation of Immigrants.
Congress hasn’t passed in an immigration reform since 1986! Immigrants make an unmistakably positive contribution on the American economy. One of the problems is the United States faces a troubling demographic issue. And to fix it we have to pass meaningful common sense legislative reforms. Congress and the president need to work together.
First we need to address National Security. Secondly, we need a system that works for a modern economy with all its economic demands and demographic changes.
This includes addressing the green card backlogs in our employment-based immigration system and creating effective temporary worker programs for workers of all skill levels. Addressing these two key issues will not only allow employers to innovate and create jobs, but effective temporary worker programs for the lesser-skilled occupations are essential to preventing unauthorized migration in the future. Further to that end, Congress must put in place a worker employment verification system that works for businesses of all sizes in all industries to curb unauthorized employment, commonly referred to as the “job magnet” that drives unauthorized migration to the U.S.
And finally there has to be a process that sets forth strict eligibility criteria for allowing the otherwise law-abiding people individuals who are not authorized to be in the U.S. an opportunity to earn a legal status.
For years, we’ve seen the effects of our broken immigration system. We can’t wait any longer to fix it. The president and Congress must work together to solve these very real and very urgent problems.
With meaningful immigration reforms, we can promote both national security and economic growth and solve problems that the American public has long asked for their leaders to address.” Source, USA Chamber of Commerce website.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
“When historian James Truslow Adams coined the term “American Dream” in 1931, he described it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” These days, the American Dream is about hustling (for men and women).” Source, Forbes Magazine.
Achieving The American dream requires a lot of hard work!
The keys to achieving the American dream or any dream has to do with having determination, perseverance, hard work, drive,not being afraid of executing projects and understanding that your network the people around you, are very important for your growth. To be able at any moment to sacrifice what you are to become what you want to be.
Life throws curveballs at you and just staying focused.
We know that the US needs improvement. But what makes you most optimistic about the US’s future?
What makes me the most optimistic about the US’s future is the American people. America is always been great and the land of opportunity.
We’re in a stronger position than many people realize. America still has the world’s largest economy and the most powerful military. The dollar is the world’s reserve currency; we’re still the single most attractive destination for immigrants and we have the world’s best customer base for other nations to target. We have more soft power and cultural influence than any other nation in the world and we’re still the planet’s only Super Power.
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. 🙂
Malala, Obama, Oprah Winfrey
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.
Originally published at medium.com