I recently connected with Carmen Nuesi Peralta, a 19-year-old college student, originally from the Dominican Republic. Carmen has lived in the US since 2015 and is an accounting student at York College in New York City. I asked Carmen questions that explored her background, her life goals, and most importantly, how she overcame some significant obstacles such as bullying and language issues to break out of her comfort zone and become an inspiration for others.
Q. What was one of the toughest things you experienced growing up in the Dominican Republic and what did you learn from it?
A. One of the hardest things I had to face was the fact that my father was not able to attend any of the big moments I had as achild. This part of my story may sound familiar to a lot of Hispanic families when one parent goes to the U.S to pursue the famous “American Dream.” I always wanted him to be present and feel proud of my accomplishments, but he was doing what was necessary for us as a family to ensure a bright future in a new country. I didn't understand this at the time, but now I see the sacrifice he made on our behalf.
My mother taught me that I had to make things happen. Just like my dad, I needed to do things even if they weren't comfortable. While still living in the Dominican Republic, my mom pushed me to graduate high school; then she encouraged me to go further. "Do you want just a high school diploma?" She would ask. I wanted to be like my mother: an inspiration to others, but I didn’t quite know how. My comfort zone was staying home. Going to school was hard because of bullying.
Q. What’s one example of you breaking out of your comfort zone?
A. My mother was very good at public speaking. One of my life-goals is the continual development of this skill. My first public speaking experience was in middle school. I had to present the life of Cristobal Colon in front of over 500 people from all over the Dominican Republic. In the beginning, I didn't want to do it. But, my mother had me practice, practice, practice and by doing so I built up confidence. I continued to practice and work on my presentations, and by the time I was in high school, I was able to participate in the Model United Nations Program and speak in front of the UN Ambassador from the Dominican Republic! Confidence through practice is everything.
Q. How did you feel about coming to the United States?
A. When I came to the United States, I was both happy and afraid. The happy part was being able to see my father while the bad part was my fear of being bullied. For most of my life, I was bullied because of my weight. While I looked forward to starting a new life, beginning again, and discovering myself, I was afraid the nastiness of others was going to follow me. On top of this, I was entering an entirely different world, a place where I couldn't speak the language. I had to leave my family—my mother and my brothers. How would I find a job? What if the bullying continued? I had to believe in myself. The fears I had about bullying didn't come true, but the result of the pain I experienced is still something I am working to overcome, and part of the healing process involves helping others.
Q. Can you tell us about some of the ways you are helping others?
A. When I met my first accounting professor, he encouraged me to take on extracurricular activities, something I was reluctant to do because I was afraid of entering a situation where bullying could occur.
After trying a few different organizations, I found a home in the Accounting Club and the National Association of Black Accountants Chapter (NABA). My fear went away as my peers encouraged me—something I wasn't used to—and their kindness was amazing. Because of that, I had a desire to give back to the organization. In December 2017, I decided to run for the position of Vice-President of the York College NABA Chapter, and I got it! Now I play a big role supporting an organization that gave me so much.
I also became a Student Partner for WileyPLUS after being nominated by one of my professors. As a Student Partner, I help students use the WileyPLUS platform. I learned to speak English just two years ago, and yet at the beginning of each semester, I use my public speaking skills to present in front of a class. It’s such a beautiful feeling when fellow accounting students come to me asking for advice, and I can help them succeed. My time as a student partner has been a double blessing since I have also gotten to know many students who were bullied. I encourage them through my words and experiences, giving them hope and inspiration to not let fear hold them back.