As a high school senior, I faced a daunting decision in front of me: where would I go to college? With so many options, the only thing I knew for certain was that I couldn’t stay home. Not because I disliked my country or my family, but because I didn’t see Puerto Rico as being able to offer me the education I wanted in my desired field. After some thought, and a failed campus visit to NYU, I ended up taking a chance and chose to go to Iowa State. Even though I hadn’t ever visited the campus, or the state for that matter. To my surprise, I haven’t looked back since.
Twelve years later, I’m still living in Iowa with my new family; an adoring husband and beautiful nine-month-old baby girl. I have now lived a good portion of my life out of my home country. There’s definitely been some hard times when the nostalgia hits hard out of nowhere, and you feel alone. Other times, the small island seems like a distant place, a faint memory from my past.
I must admit, at first I felt like a fish out of water.
A lot was lost in translation. My accent got in the way of communication. I often felt alien in conversations where common jargons simply did not make any sense to me. Nonetheless, this same “glitch” in the system is what eventually broke the ice and how I met a lot of my friends. To this day, there are still times when I blankly stare at my husband because I have no idea what he just said. Thankfully, he catches on pretty quickly and is willing to explain.
Once bridges were formed, I developed incredible friendships with people who I am still lucky to call my friends. I surrounded myself with kindhearted and honest Midwesterners. They made a place in Iowa for me to call home. One of them eventually became my husband. He was a blue-eyed man who definitely did not fit what I expected my partner would be like (dark skinned and extremely Latin, but we can keep that a secret).
We settled in the Corridor area, bought a house, and started a family. Now we’re creating new traditions that combine Puerto Rican and American cultures. I speak in Spanish to my daughter and English when my husband is around. When I’m at home, I play salsa music and we listen to alternative on car rides. I try to incorporate some Puerto Rican cuisine into our weekly rotation and have learned how to make a pretty impressive deer meat stew.
There’s a couple of things that have helped my transition.
One is technology because I’m able to have constant communication with my family back home. Thank you Snapchat! Every so often, my mom sends me care packages with a bunch of goodies. These are welcomed with open arms when a particular craving starts showing it’s face. I can find current news and trends online as well as playlists that will perk me back up when I’m feeling down. Having these links to my hometown have truly made a difference in keeping that connection alive.
The other thing that has made my new home feel welcoming is an understanding and accommodating husband. I really lucked out because he truly embraces my different upbringing. He thinks my accent is cute. He loves that our daughter will get to know two cultures and languages. Plus, he helps me when I’m missing home or need a bit of translation help. He supports me and helps me understand things that are culturally different. To his benefit, he gets a “vacation home” on a tropical island we get to visit at least every other year.
I would love to wake up on a sunny Saturday morning and decide to go to the beach on a whim. I’d dig my toes in the sand, have a nice cold local beer, and a couple of fritters. Nonetheless, I still cherish our weekends at home when we hike a riverside trail. We can go apple-picking or spend the afternoon fishing on the lake. No matter what, home is where the heart is.
Currently, it’s right here in Iowa with my husband and daughter.
Have you moved far from home?
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