From Venezuela to Miami: The Transition

 

“I didn’t choose to be Venezuelan, I just got lucky.” – Olga Benacerraf

 

With Venezuela being in grave political, economic, and social crisis, many families have turned to fleeing the country in order to escape the danger and turmoil present in their everyday lives. The country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, has been facing severe political opposition in the form of protests and riots for a couple of years. So far, there has been no fix for the corrupt government that has been causing the crippling depression.

This school year has introduced the community at Scheck Hillel to a number of new faces. These people left their homes in Venezuela to start a new chapter in Miami. Moving to a new place can be difficult; however, the community at Hillel has been determined to make every person that walks through the school’s gates feel comfortable and at-home. After settling in for some time, Gabriel Feldman (9th Grade), Olga Benacerraf (10th Grade), and Daniel Saias (12th Grade) were open to answer a couple of questions about their experiences in regards to the transition.

When the students were asked if it has been hard to adapt and make new friends, there was a common response that the student body made the whole process much easier, as they felt welcomed by their peers. Daniel Saias added that even though everyone is being very kind to him, it is difficult to completely change his environment to what he has been used to. “I went from knowing everything about the school that I had been in for 14 years, to being the new one and the outsider in my new community.”

According to Gabriel Feldman, the transition has also been difficult due to him constantly thinking about his community living back in Venezuela. Moving to Miami creates an opportunity for a better life, but it is hard when not everyone is able to get that chance.

In the daily lives of these students, everything seems drastically different from the way it has been in Venezuela. Shopping for basic necessities, such as toilet paper, feels like a luxury, and hiding a cellphone when stepping outside comes as second nature. “Even doing something as simple as closing a car door is different here. They aren’t bulletproof here,” says Olga Benacerraf. The things people in first-world countries would normally take for granted are put into perspective after being informed of the troubles faced in Venezuela.

Despite having firsthand experiences with the dangers in Venezuela, the students all agree that their home country is truly amazing. Olga Benacerraf beams in happiness when she says, “I know that the moment will come when we will all be able to go back to our country,” and she is confident that she would love to go back.

“I feel like everyone will mistake Venezuela for a bad country, while in reality, there’s only a certain group of people that make it so. The majority of the people are good… and no one really understands the situation until they see it with their own eyes.” – Daniel Saias

 

To find out more about the conflict, visit https://www.venezuelalucha.com/ (click to translate the page) and read about the day to day incidents in Venezuela.

To help the Venezuelan community, visit https://m.jewishmiami.org/gift/venezuelasupportfund/ to donate money for the cause.

(These are the complete answers given.)

Gabriel Feldman (9th Grade)

What do you miss most about Venezuela?

  • I miss my friends and my old school.

 

Was it hard to make new friends here?

  • For me it wasn’t that hard because I already knew a lot of people [in Miami] who helped me get used to everything. A lot of Venezuelans already live here [Miami], so it was easier than any other place to move to.

 

How is the current situation in Venezuela affecting you?

  • It’s affecting me because when I lived there [Venezuela], I couldn’t hang out with my friends. There was no security. Here it’s so different but I think about everyone in Venezuela a lot.

 

Olga Benacerraf (10th Grade)

Was it hard to adapt to the new school?

  • Coming to hillel for the first time was completely nerve-wracking. Our student life isn’t only made up of academics, and the social factor of arriving at a new school is crucial. Students here understood that and welcomed me with open arms. They made the whole process of moving and adapting to this new world I was thrown into easier. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

 

What do you miss most about Venezuela?

  • I miss being home. I miss the perfect weather, the heart achingly beautiful landscapes, and the amazing people Venezuelans are. I long for my school and its faculty. I need my friends and my family. My daily routine, my language… Everything that I used to take for granted has changed, but I know that the moment will come when we will all be able to go back to our country. I didn’t choose to be Venezuelan, I just got lucky.

 

How is the current situation in Venezuela affecting you?

  • I love my country, and no matter where I end up, it will always be a part of me. I was very fortunate to live in a bubble back in Venezuela. I was happy and had a life that I considered normal. When said bubble popped and I was told that I was moving to Miami, my world turned upside down. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. I have slowly realized that while the life that I had in Caracas was a happy one, I was missing out on many things anyone here takes for granted. Walking out onto the street and hiding my cellphone comes as second nature to me. Being able to shop for whatever I may need at any given time is still something that I’m getting used to. Even doing something as simple as closing a car door is different here. They aren’t bulletproof here. Every night I would have to wait until 10pm to see if our school would open the following day, depending on the riots or public concentrations that were planned. Collecting money for our very own teachers, who struggled to get food for them and their families was standard procedure. My Instagram feed is cluttered with tragic news, and my biggest fear is that one of those posts will one day show the face of someone I love. The situation in Venezuela is one that has inevitably shaped me into who I am today. It is a part of my life and my identity.

 

Daniel Saias (12th Grade)

How was life in Venezuela different to life here?

  • In Venezuela everything is completely different. I use to live in constant fear of what could happen. Now I have an outstanding number of options for everything and I feel free. The way to socialize is completely different as in Venezuela everyone is in his own cocoon, and here I’m free to make my own decisions outside of the confinements of my home and my school. In Venezuela I felt like I was in a bubble and now I’m outside, living the real world and this fills me with energy to make my new life.

 

Has it been easy to adjust to the community at Hillel?

  • The community at Hillel has been very good with me. There have always been people offering their help and making sure that I can adjust fine. However, the adaptation process is a very difficult one, because I went from knowing everything about the school that I had been in for 14 years, to being the new one, and the outsider, in my new community. I am very grateful for the people that have concerned themselves with my well being in this change, and I will always appreciate the treatment I was given my first days on Hillel.

 

How is the current situation in Venezuela affecting you?

  • The current situation in Venezuela affects me and my family a lot because we feel like we’re refugees from this dictatorship and now I just feel sad for everyone that wants to, but can’t, get out of Venezuela. I feel like everyone will mistake Venezuela for a bad country, while in reality, there’s only a certain group of people that make it so, but the majority of the people are good, and no one really understands the situation until they see it with their own eyes.

 




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