In January 2015, my family and I arrived in the United States with the purpose of starting a new life. I’d made the decision in July 2014.
Since my first time in New York, back in 1987, I knew I wanted to live here someday. I thought it was impossible, though, and forgot about it.
I’d lived in Lisbon as a child and spoke Portuguese; I’d studied in a Lycee Francais and spoke French; I’d come to the US many times and I spoke English. So, when I had my son, I thought I’d like to offer him the opportunity of learning other languages and experiencing other cultures.
I got my Ph.D. in 2011: I assumed it would be easier to get a job in another country having Ph.D. I applied and applied and got no offers. I taught at a college in Madrid and was a researcher at the National Council for Research. But I was not happy.
I quit everything and wrote a novel.
I was extremely happy but broke. Fortunately, my husband had a job making wine in a winery in Aranjuez, we owned our apartment and I had a rental property that gave me some income.
But an itching started in my soul. I wanted more. I wanted to write in English. I wanted to write for The New Yorker–I know.
I’d been a speech therapist for many years, so I started applying to speech therapy jobs in the US.
On May 1, 2014, I got a call from New York, NY. They were in desperate need of Spanish speaking speech and language therapists. Starting salary, $100,000 a year, working seven hours a day. My husband scheduled a job interview in Kearny, NJ, right outside the Holland Tunnel, for early July.
In that moment, the itching became a real pressure and went from my soul to my brain. I started planning. First things first: I needed to have my credentials valid in the US. I contacted an evaluating agency and got my paperwork done.
A bummer: my speech therapy degree was not valid in the States–I didn’t want to be a speech therapist anyway. A second bummer: my husband’s prospective employer was too small and couldn’t sponsor him for a work visa.
Plan B: enroll in a master’s program and come as an F1 student.
While spending some time with my American-born cousin in her rural Pennsylvania home in June that year, I visited some schools and learned about some programs. NYU was so New York. Back in Madrid, I applied and got admitted to its Public Relations and Corporate Communication master’s program in August.
We sold our two apartments, our car, my piano. We gave away things, our records (vinyls and CDs), clothes, kitchen stuff.
We were so excited.
And then came the questioning, the doubting. I remember one of my sisters-in-law, “I’m afraid that if you sell the apartment, where would you come back if you have to?” We won’t. We wouldn’t.
And the need for justification. I couldn’t tell people I was going to New York because I wanted to be a writer and write for The New Yorker. I mean, I could, but I didn’t want to because Spaniards are not like Americans. They don’t say, That’s so cool! Go for it! They say, Seriously? But being a writer is very difficult. But you’re not even a native speaker of English–yeah, I realized that later. But. But. Everything but.
So instead, I said, The crisis, you know. I don’t have a job, with my education and experience. I’m going to look for opportunities elsewhere. Public Relations, New York City. And people believed me.
My husband quit his job, my son left his school. We all left our friends, family. We left our life as we knew it to start a new, different one here.
In April 2016 I applied for Permanent Residency (green card) based on my work experience and education. I got it–I’m an E16-category worker now (exceptional ability). From May 2017 the three of us are lawful immigrants in the United States of America.
I teach at a college in New York City, I bake my own bread. I write–although not yet for The New Yorker–and I’m happy.