Being an international student in the United States is an experience enriching and challenging at the same time. From not being understood to understanding too much, it has been a constant learning process to adapt and grow in an environment that most likely you won't understand at first. However, along the process, I have found some common ground with people who share my positionality and teach me how to succeed. One of these common grounds has been PLEN, where I met a handful of women around the country who have a shared passion for challenging and succeeding. Why am I talking about challenges and successes? One constant conversation I had while attending PLEN was how we could make this world a better place. We talked about environmental justice, gender equality, a campaign against racism, among others. Different women held conversations with diverse backgrounds but a shared desire to make this world a better place. That's what I meant by “challenge” because we were challenging our reality while creating an action plan for future generations, including ourselves, to follow.
On the other hand, I talk about success because I was surrounded by a group of successful and empowered women for three days. However, most importantly, successful women who want to see other women succeed. Our panelists gave a lot of advice and tips among the encouragement and wholesomeness. They taught us how to navigate a system that was not created for people who look like us, but that is a system we can change. I identify as a Latina and remember one of our panelists said that we had to own our space because we deserve it as much as everyone else. This message resonates with me for the rest of the day. It is not common in the United States to find someone like me creating and promoting policy in Washington DC; however, through PLEN, I met people like me that were taking up space and upholding and supporting others in the process.
PLEN provides a narrative of community, something international students like me sometimes miss as we are far from home. The seminar gave me a network and a path, provided me with tools, and never limited how far I wanted to dream!
Maria Isabel Díaz attended the 2021 Women of Color Influencing Washington seminar. She is a junior at St. Lawrence University majoring in Political Science and Economics.