She came to the US with $200, now she’s an officer at the New York State Council on the Arts.
By Kathryn Walsh and Philip Garrity
Fabiana Chiu, Peru
“I grew up under two military dictatorships and years of some of the bloodiest terrorism ever witnessed in the Americas,” says Fabiana Chiu, who left Lima, Peru, at age 21 to attend college in Richmond, Kentucky, after her parents “scraped, borrowed, and mortgaged” to get her here. She now lives in Yorktown with her husband and two children, and commutes to New York City where she is a program officer at the New York State Council on the Arts.
My Story: “I came to the US with $200 in my pocket, two suitcases, and a student visa. In Kentucky, I was one of two students from Latin America on a small campus. I was forced to speak English from the get-go. Immersion is always the best method, albeit painful. I learned from Beatles songs, listening to commercials, and my ESL teachers. The isolation was crushing. I used to request junk mail through magazine order forms so that I could get something—anything—in the mailbox. It made me feel less alone. To this day, sales circulars are most welcomed at my house. I now work in New York City helping evaluate and administer grants to arts organizations throughout the state. My husband and I also run an online site called The (Greater) Croton Songbook as a community service, collecting and sharing songs written in and inspired by the Croton area.”
My advice to new immigrants: “Talk about your dreams, constantly. You never know who can help you realize them. When you see an opportunity, take it. Learn from your mistakes. In the US, you get the opportunity to make lots of mistakes, these are lessons in humility. Humility can be a good thing. And more importantly, be helpful, pay it forward.”