Mariana Vejar, a student with a passion for education
Mariana Vejar is who anyone would describe as the quintessential American college student. She has just turned twenty, is studying full-time, and has big plans for her future. However, there is something that makes Vejar distinct from her peers.
“My mother is very independent and strong, like a boss, while my father is like a philosopher,” said Vejar, the youngest child of two Venezuelan immigrants. She is the first person in her family to be born in the United States. Over 18 million people in the U.S. have at least one foreign-born parent, which is a phenomenon that is integral to the cultural fabric of this country and its citizens.
Regardless of the decades-long civil unrest within Venezuela, Mariana’s father persisted with his education. “Obviously it is harder in Venezuela to get an education, but my dad graduated with a law degree and became a lawyer.”
Vejar has mirrored her father’s passion for education, as she has enjoyed the depth of her college classes thus far and is planning to attend the University of Central Florida to study marketing following her BC graduation this semester.
In reflection of her achievements, Vejar said, “I am most proud of how I have handled school. I have never failed a class and am an A and B student. I think education is my biggest accomplishment because I’ve really focused on that.”
The trend of academically high-achieving second-generation immigrant children in the United States is not new. Research from John Hopkins University found that children of immigrants tend to outperform their American peers significantly, with second-generation immigrants making up 60 percent of the growth in university enrollment since 2000.
Although Mariana inherited certain values and habits from her parents, being raised in the United States has also caused cultural clashes, regarding her family’s traditional religious beliefs and her own political beliefs. “I am Catholic, but I am a die-hard Democrat. I am pro-choice and I try not to bring my faith into politics.”
This conflict of ideology and cultural identity is very evident within second-generation immigrant children. “Some of my morals are different from my parents. Obviously, growing up they taught me what they were taught was right,” Vejar reflected. “For example, crime is pretty intense in Venezuela so when I would stay out late it would be a big deal for them because of that fear, even though America is much safer.”
The cultural identity crisis that many second-generation immigrant children face calls into question the long-term impacts of being torn between conflicting cultures.
“Maybe I would change the way that my parents chose everything for me,” said Vejar. “I feel like I’ve never known what to do.” This speaks to the protective nature of immigrant parents, as many left their home countries to ensure their children have a successful future.
However, on the lessons she has learned from her parents, Vejar concludes, “I have learned to be extremely independent and hardworking because things will not be handed to you.” Thus, Vejar exemplifies not only the cultural conflicts that many second-generation immigrants may face but also the way that many leave their cultural legacies in the U.S., by imparting the best of both worlds.