This summer, our interns attended an ethical storytelling workshop in partnership with the University of Mississippi and Southern Foodways Alliance. To learn the ropes of the industry, they were tasked with interviewing immigrants within their community. Integration services intern Gabriella spoke with Isabel, who participates in our Youth Mentoring Program.
Early one sunny Saturday, Isabel Lara Tenia and I met at a local coffee shop. Isabel told me about her aspirations and plans for the coming years as I sipped on my tea. As a rising senior, Isabel explained her dreams about college with excitement and nervousness. We also touched on World Relief Memphis, the organization that introduced Isabel and I, and how it has impacted her. The following quotations are excerpts pulled from my interview with Isabel, who so gracefully shared her story with me.
Isabel Lara Tenia’s Story
I grew up with both of my parents. I have two younger sisters. I’m the oldest one. We have always been together, playing, going on family vacations, throwing parties with all of our family members back in my country, and we are just always together enjoying ourselves.
We’ve been here for four years. When we first came here, I was really excited. I was just seeing and experiencing new things. We had been here several times before because my aunt has been living here for 25 years.
I am applying for universities and colleges right now, mostly abroad; but I’m also applying for the University of Memphis. I just love to discover new things. I like to meet people. I like to learn about different cultures. It’s just that, I want to explore. I want to just take advantage of being young and having the opportunity to do it.
I am applying for some schools in Germany and also Japan, and I am looking at some schools in Australia. My great grandfather was from Germany so we have family there. I also have family members in Australia. There is also a lot of diversity at the University of Memphis which is what I like because, you know, I don’t want to just see the same people every day.
I want to go into biology and, hopefully, branch into genetics. I’m really fascinated by the human body and what we can do with it. Like genetics, you can just see what we’re made out of and that’s just fascinating to me. I want to work in a lab and wear a white coat. I’ve always wanted to do science.
The college experience is very different here than in Venezuela. I used to live in a city so there were a bunch of colleges there. No one really talks about dorms because there are no dorms. People really don’t move out that much after high school. We are still with our parents, and we just go to college there. It’s just all in one city.
When I came here and they were talking to me about colleges, I was like ‘oh my gosh why are they so far?’ That experience is a lot different from Venezuela because you’re closer to people, and all of your friends are from one area so you can always be with them and hangout with them. But, when you go to Memphis University or others, you have people from Michigan and Pennsylvania and stuff like that.
I really like the Youth Mentoring Program. It just started and we are now going to do the in-person stuff, which I am excited about because I feel like it’s just going to be better for all of us. I really like to listen to other people’s experiences and what they do because it really helps me to visualize how it’s going to be. How college and working is going to be. It makes me feel safer, I guess, because it’s clearer.
Isabel, we hope you enjoy your senior year! If you want to get involved in the lives of our youth, fill out an application to be a Youth Mentor today!
Gabriella Massey is a junior at Belmont University studying Spanish and Religion. She is passionate about the work she does with World Relief because she believes that everyone’s voice is important and she cherishes the opportunity to help others feel welcome and comfortable.