The Adventures of Leaving Everything I Knew

By Raquel Venado — I am one lucky Mexican girl who comes from a hardworking family. As a child I attended bilingual schools. I don´t remember learning the alphabet or learning to read in Spanish, but I do remember doing it in English. I have had so many opportunities to travel and interact with people. I didn´t think moving to Chicago would be difficult. I mean, how hard could it be? Mexico and the U.S. are neighbors and I have been exposed to this culture since I was a kid. Turns out it was harder than I thought.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. There’s no freedom of speech and if someone tries to say something against the government or the system, chances are they will receive some kind of retaliation. Journalists and students who are against the system and write about it or protest about it have been killed, tortured, or disappeared.

Raquel Venado is a junior at Columbia College Chicago ,studying Broadcast Journalism. Venado is from Mexico City, Mexico.

That’s why I am so thankful for this once in a lifetime opportunity I’m having, because I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I was in my third semester of college in Mexico when I got accepted to Columbia College Chicago. Even though I accepted the offer I did it without thinking twice, I didn´t realize everything I was leaving behind. I wasn´t just leaving my family but my friends and my dog. I was leaving the only lifestyle I knew. School keeps you so busy during the first weeks, you don´t have time to think if you are missing someone. But as the weeks go by you eventually run out of things to do, that´s when you realize all the things you are missing.

For example, my friends from back home had inside jokes I no longer understood and I missed my brother´s birthday. I missed “La Feria de Texcoco,” which is a place that only opens once a year for a month. I no longer woke up with Las mañanitas for my birthday, or my grandma who spoiled me by preparing my favorite food.

These are things you will always miss, but once you realize all the things you are doing, that´s when you realize how amazing this whole experience is and how lucky you are. You start making new friends and in my case, the ones I love the most are Mexican too and they understand everything I´m going through. They are the people who make me feel closer to my country and the ones who know what I mean when I say “I’m dying for pozole,” or any other Mexican food I love and miss.

Food is an important element for us. For the way my friends and I crave for tacos you would think we eat tacos every day, but we don´t. It´s because we don´t have them and because the “real” ones are hell of expensive that’s why we crave them as much as we do. When I say “the real ones” I don´t mean only tacos, but authentic Mexican food in general.

People tend to confuse Tex-Mex and Mexican food. I have never eaten chile con carne and those weird tacos that Taco-Bell sells are not tacos, that´s not even how a tortilla looks like. You are fooled so many times by restaurants who claim to be Mexican restaurants that when you find a real one it´s like paradise. You want to order EVERYTHING: “Por favor tráigame dos tacos de carnitas, un pozole, un agua de jamaica y no se le olviden los limones.” It seems that you haven´t eaten anything for a week and that you have been outside Mexico for years and not only for a few months.

I love living in Chicago and I really hope I can stay here after graduation. But whenever I feel homesick, I just look at the pictures on my wall and I see all the people I love and I take a deep breath. I text my brother , my mom or my friends and that tells me everything is going to be alright and that it is all worth it in the long run.

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Originally published at latina-voices.com on April 1, 2015.

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