His parents had come to Arlington in 1999, seeking a better life for their family and drawn to Arlington’s large community of Bolivians. Jose remembers his parents’ struggle to support his older brother and younger sister and their difficult decision to come to the US. When his parents left, he and his siblings had to grow up very quickly. Jose’s older brother became their primary caregiver, additionally supported by the money their parents sent back.
Hoping to reunite their family, Jose and his siblings repeatedly applied for visas once they were college age. When Jose was a sophomore computer engineering student, his mother told him about a new student diversity visa. He quickly filled out yet another application. Six months later, an email arrived stating he was eligible. “I was so shocked that I was sure it was a scam,” Jose recalled. “I even called the agency to verify that it was all real.”
Indeed it was, but he had just three months to come to the US or lose his visa. With only one semester left in college, it was a difficult decision to abandon his studies. And even more difficult, he had to leave his brother and sister in Bolivia.
Jose surprised his mom and dad on Thanksgiving Day when he arrived at their apartment in Arlington. “I couldn’t talk for first two days when I was back together with my parents,” he recalled. “The emotions were so strong.”
When he first arrived, Jose’s English skills were minimal, and it was very isolating. He worked hard to support himself and his family, but he became depressed, battling homesickness and struggling to adjust to his new nation. But he fought back, signing up for full-time ESL classes at NOVA while continuing to work part-time. A stable, affordable home was crucial for his family during this time. “Now I understand – Arlington is so beautiful. It’s so clean, close to everything. But, with all that, comes the expense. That’s why The Springs is such a blessing for us,” said Jose.
Since Jose had studied computer engineering back in Bolivia, he wanted to complete his degree in the US. After enrolling at NOVA, he took a psychology class and fell in love with the field. Thanks to the guidance of a trusted professor, he discovered a path to blend his passions, computational neuroscience. With a double major in psychology and computer science, Jose will finish associates at NOVA in the spring of 2018 and plans to apply to American University to continue his studies.