Daniel Juárez Pereira
Marketing & Management Major
President of Richland Phi Theta Kappa, President of Richland Student Government Association, Richland Investment Club (media coordinator), officer in the Richland Art Club, public relations officer of the Texas Junior TXSGA (Region 2 of Texas)
As an international student, how was the transition for you coming to the United States from Guatemala?
When I was little, I saw a lot of issues in Guatemala. Now that I’m older, I see that there is room for improvement. I love my country, but now that I’m here and not living in a third world country, I have a different perspective on the things that we can improve. I love the people of Guatemala. There’s so much collaboration and rich culture within the country. Now, I have both perspectives of being from there and now living here.
I’ve been here now [in the United States] for about 10 months and it was a long process. I was supposed to start school in the summer of 2020, but the pandemic happened and I wasn’t able to travel. Thankfully, my advisor allowed me to start my classes online from Guatemala for the Fall 2020 semester. It was an interesting experience! It was difficult for two reasons. First, the Dallas College transition because many of the contacts for the services and programs were changing. The second was doing everything virtual. And for me, I’m doing better now with English, but having that language barrier was difficult, too.
But something that really helped me was being involved at the college. For example, I attended the club fair and it helped me get in contact with student leaders who then helped me land leadership positions of clubs and organizations.
I always wanted to study in the States. In a trip that I was gifted from one of my uncles, I was able to come to Dallas and visit the University of Texas at Dallas. For an international student, my friend told me it was going to cost $60,000 a year. But he also told me about a school named Richland and how I could do two years there and then transfer to UTD. I went through the whole admissions process and everything was set. I was allowed to start classes at Dallas College. It was amazing. And now that I’m here, I really want to continue and help others.
As a Hispanic student, what are some challenges that you have faced and made it through?
For me, I think the biggest challenge has been the accessibility to resources. In my culture, we didn’t talk about mental illness or going to counseling because that’s just the culture. I think we don’t speak about these kinds of issues because it’s not common for us to do so. But if we can make resources, like counseling and the Student Care Network at the college, more accessible and known to others, more students will take advantage of the resources available to them. And not only Latinos, all students.
Considering the struggles you’ve gone through like losing your mom, how did you get back on track after dealing with the challenging circumstances of life? What was that process like?
It was a long and hard process. My mom died three days before I turned 13. When that happened, I knew I had to help raise my little brother. I took that responsibility, but the problem was that I didn’t focus on myself but on everyone else. It was when everyone else seemed to be ok when things fell apart for me. The process was long and difficult. There was a point where I was at my lowest that my triathlon coach helped me. He was the one who pushed me to keep going. He started putting me in competitions, and we started small to work towards going big. But what really impacted my life was an accident that I had when a car hit me. I broke my kneecap, and I felt like I had lost everything I worked for the last couple of years. It was difficult having to do therapy for a whole year and just rebuilding myself. But I was grateful for everything that everyone in my life had done for me. It really opened my eyes.
After everything you’ve been through, what keeps you positive and optimistic about the future?
My faith in God. After all I’ve been through, I know it’s not normal that I’m still here. I truly believe there’s so much more in life, and God has been the one who has helped me through everything. Also, my family. Being an example for my little brother. At first it was difficult when I moved here because he would call me every day just to talk. The three of us, my dad and older brother, raised him together after my mom passed. And lastly, to maintain the legacy of my mother. She was an amazing woman. She wasn’t famous or anything like that, but she impacted her community and the people she met. That’s what I want to do. All this sacrifice is not only for me but future generations. Life can be hard, but we have to set goals to keep us moving forward and be kind to ourselves. Sometimes we are the worst in criticizing ourselves. My faith, family, and the legacy of my mother.
You’ve mentioned previously that you don’t let adversities define you. How exactly do you define yourself?
In my life, I had a victim mentality mindset. If someone stays in that way of thinking and doesn’t ask for help, they won’t be able to develop or grow. I chose to not be a victim. Of course, I need to continue to work on myself, but now that I’ve gone through the process of getting out of that mindset, I can help others so I don’t only receive but give back. The last six years were very difficult for me. It was one thing after another. I think that defines me. The experiences I’ve gone through and the people who have been with me along the way. Even the relationships I’ve had with those who didn’t help, it still taught me a lesson and that’s the most important thing.
What advice would you give to other Latino students?
I think it’s really easy to get caught up in your job or things that provide you with things right now. I’m not saying education is going to give you all that you need in the moment, especially when you’re in school, but it’s going to help you achieve different skills and help you long-term.
For example, a lot of students have to work because they have to provide and that’s something that us Latinos look at: Where can I work right now? But if we focus on education, the money you are making in a job right now won’t even compare to what you are capable of maintaining later on. So, if people start looking at the things they love to do and how education can help them, then it’s going to be beneficial for them and change their life.
Education isn’t the end goal, but it’s the route. Your education is a process to take you somewhere that you want to go–wherever that is. You get to decide. But it is a process, and it will have its ups and downs. All the sacrifices you’re making now aren’t only for you. They’re for your family and friends, and your future family – anyone who is looking to you.