Priscilla Arias, PhD candidate, learned to “live life” with a dual American and immigrant identity

For #HispanicHeritageMonth, we’ve asked students to write about their heritage, the loved ones they share it with, where they come from. Take the time to learn these stories as we share them over the next few weeks.

Meet Priscilla Arias, a PhD candidate at the Bloustein School.

“Growing up in Miami, Florida, being Hispanic was never central to my identity. We were all either immigrants or the children of immigrants, so it wasn’t something that classmates, family, or friends talked about too much. It didn’t seem unique or special to be bilingual or even trilingual. We might have eaten empanadas for lunch and then hot dogs for dinner or watched Sábado Gigante with our grandparents then switched the channel so we wouldn’t miss The X-Files. By just “living life” we managed to navigate both of our identities, as Americans and as “immigrants”, with ease. It took me leaving for college in the Midwest to better understand my experience as noteworthy.

In the Midwest, specifically Chicago, it was no longer true that virtually everyone was connected to another country. The distinction helped me understand that I related to both the immigrant experience and that of lifelong Americans. In this sense I understood that I simultaneously inhabited two worlds: in one, I was an American translating–so to speak–between my parents’ generation, whose personal identities were more deeply rooted in their home countries, and their adopted country. In the other, I was Hispanic, remaining open to and welcoming of all cultures, all customs, and all people.

I now carry this awareness with me as a Ph.D. student at Bloustein, as I hope to always center my research on empathy and understanding of all people.”