Gen Zs as Immigrants and International Students.

Are we our ancestors?

Living in an immigrant household is always about opportunities. Don’t complain about what you don’t have and work with what you do. These are things that many children and grandchildren of immigrants understand. In my case, I was born in my home country, Venezuela, in an Italian immigrant household. My grandfather immigrated at a very young age to flee the war and he married my grandmother––a native Venezuelan. My dad grew up between Italy and Venezuela. I can say my grandfather was such a fan of Venezuela that he hardly ever spoke to us in Italian. His Spanish was immaculate. However, his espresso was strong, his pasta bowl was big, and his dispatch was filled with letters and an immense library full of stories about his fellow brothers that fled WWII. He died when I was very young, but I feel like he shaped my life even after his death. 

In 2018, I decided I would study in the US. Technically, that isn’t immigration. But coming from a country like Venezuela and its fancy narco-government, once you find a way out, you don’t want to go back. Once you find a way to escape, you find a way to stay. 

I embarked on a journey in an even more privileged way than my grandfather. At least I had a student visa. This is why I consider that immigrants are artists: they have to create something out of nothing. I had the support of my parents and a dream to look out for. My grandfather arrived in Venezuela alone and hungry. 

The most beautiful thing of all is that he never talked to me about that moment in his life. He was constantly living in the present. We would sit alone in the dispatch while he would play solitaire cards and I would use his electric sharpener. It was after he died that I wanted to know more about his past and my inheritance. I started to get more involved in Italian culture and realized that the Italians are the ones who built Venezuela into an almost perfect country (obviously, until the dictatorship took over 20 years ago). Hence, I felt so hopeful about my future in the US. If I help develop something big for society, would they put my name everywhere? Will they honor me and my culture? And even when the tabloids and media said the contrary, I still wanted to fight my way into the US.

Here is where it hurts though. I am here, in the US, and the unpleasant racist comments taste so bitter, and guess what? We immigrants are undeniably conditioned to swallow it and go on with our lives. Because immigrants have to do extra miles as an effort. 

As a Gen Z, I can say that I have enough energy to go on. But it’s unfair––it’s unfair that I have to prove a point to everyone. Someday I will–we will–get tired.

Many Gen Zs with immigrant parents in the US battle with the concept of privilege. They feel like their emotions are being devalued, especially in college and in the workplace. Some of us have to work 12+ hours a day and even on weekends. 

“What do you have that an American doesn’t?” This is the question that your International Liaison at your university tells you to work on––you have to be better. But better how? If I have to be better and all immigrants have to be better, then why hire Americans at all? And it is this comparison which fosters racism and hatred towards immigrants. 

Look, it’s okay to be tired. I know that immigrant parents always want you to keep pushing until you can’t, because they did so much for you to be here in the first place. In a way, yes, you are your ancestors. Every time that I hear that sentence, I think of all of the things that make me a better granddaughter and Italian Venezuelan. But I never think about what makes me better than Americans, because that ego that they are injecting into our lives is what makes them resent us. Nobody is better than anyone. We are all in the same space with the same ambitions. However, what makes you, you––that’s the desire to honor your ancestors. Because at the end of the day we are all immigrants, people have always––since the beginning of times––been like sharks. If you want to kill them, stop them from moving.

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