Darya Karolina’s emigrant experience started when she was a young girl who moved from Russia to Ukraine. Reminiscing her past memories when she was not able to understand the Ukrainian language and needed the help of her grandma’s neighbors was some of Darya’s sweet memories of her past.
From a young girl who lived in a rural area, Darya has journeyed and become a well-known fitness expert in her country. Though it seems like everything was going well accordingly for her, Darya reached a moment in her life where she felt unhappy at all despite the many recognitions and accomplishments she’s experiencing at the moment.
Her dream of moving to the U.S. was a sudden move which she decided to do after reflecting on her life situation. After buying a one-way ticket and living with her “not so close” friend in a low-maintenance apartment, Darya struggled a lot with the language barrier which she was able to overcome through religiously educating and studying by herself.
Darya was able to sustain living in the U.S. through her online business which she had back in Ukraine. Being a fitness expert back in her country, she was able to bring her career to the U.S., which also helped her pay for her studies.
Listening to Darya’s journey as she fled from Ukraine at a time of a war between Russia and Ukraine was very amusing and I’m pretty sure you’ll feel the same way too. Darya’s story and experience with immigration processes, visa application, and adjusting to living in New York would help you have a glimpse and be aware of what to expect when immigrating to the U.S.
Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode number 12 of the Emigrant's Life Podcast, where we share stories of people who left their country to chase a better life. I'm Daniel De Biasi and in this episode, I have the pleasure to chat with Darya, who moved to New York to chase the American dream. And so far she's been doing great. Darya is a fitness and nutrition expert. She made a name for herself in Ukraine to the point where she even went on TV. When she moved to the US with no English and no qualification, she had to rebuild her career from the ground up. She has now multiple degrees in her field, but she's still pushing the boundaries of what she can achieve. She is a real hustler. So without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Darya.
Hi Darya! Welcome, welcome to the show.
Hi, Daniel. Thank you for having me. I'm so excited.
Sweet, it was a pleasure to having you. Thanks for accepting my invitation.
Oh, it's my pleasure.
Awesome. So where are you from?
I was born in Russia, and I moved to Ukraine when I was eight years old. So I grew up in Ukraine.
So and there myself, people that asked me like you, oh, you're from Russia or Ukraine and if we can, like, you know, associate yourself with and because, you know, there's a tension between Russia and Ukraine right now, but I think I'm both because I have relatives from Russia and Ukraine. So both countries are really close to me. And I think they're really similar. There are differences obviously, but yeah.
Okay, I am a little bit ignorant, do you speak the same language or is slightly different?
Oh, it's different language. So like in Russia, we speak Russian and Ukraine, Ukrainian, but because of Ukraine was part of Soviet Union, all people know Russian. And it's also weird thing that one part of Ukraine speaks Ukrainian mostly, and another speaks mostly Russian. However, the national language is Ukrainian language, but Russian people do not understand everything in Ukrainian. It's pretty similar but it's not the same. There are still some different words you have to get used to it. So when I moved to Ukraine when I was eight years old, I had a difficult time at first when I went to school, because I couldn't understand and read and all of this. So it was pretty interesting I had to go to my neighbors that were like old grandmas, because we moved to rural area, and they had to go to them and ask them to help to translate my homework. I didn't know like, what am I supposed to do? So they were happy, like, you know, five grandmas, they also probably didn't get an education because like, like, really, really rural areas I mentioned. And they were translating this to from Ukrainian to Russian. Then I did my homework I've been doing like I was doing on in Russian and then we're translating back to Ukrainian so it was crazy.
Sounds a lot of work.
Yeah. But then, you know, as a child to learn fast. So it wasn't a problem and like probably six months.
Okay, but atleast the character of the alphabet is the same, isn't it?
Yeah, yeah, it's it's easier. Definitely. It makes it easier.
Okay. Okay, good. And where do you live now?
Now I live in New York, United States. I moved here six years ago.
Okay. So six years ago from Ukraine straight to straight to US?
Yes, yes. I moved from Ukraine. I used to live in one city in Ukraine, which called Svitlogirske. Yeah. And then, you know, I got to work. I had my personal things going on. And I wanted to have a change. And I wanted to move to the US, but I wasn't sure that I'm ready because dealing with, you know, going through divorce and like personal drama, and then moving to another country, it seemed like a little bit too much. So I decided first to move the capital of Ukraine in Kiev, and it's a beautiful city. I love Kiev and I moved there and I lived there for seven months, but I didn't feel much change. You know, it's like the city I used to live with like a small village and Kiev, it's like a big village but nothing has changed basically like, oh, everything was the same I didn't feel challenged. So then after seven months living there I felt like you know, I'm ready to make the move and I did.
Now you're in New York, is that feels like a big village or feels like a city?
You know right now it feels like a big village because it's empty. Nobody's here. It's so cozy right now. But when I moved to New York, it's definitely different. I had a - like, I experienced a huge major change in my life and New York is amazing and beautiful in so many different ways. And it's definitely different. It's not a village but, if you live on the island of Manhattan as I do, and you go to the same places and meet people you keep see like the same faces and you getting to know people data and you keep seeing them all the time and the weirdest thing ever. When COVID happened and there are no tourists in New York right now, I keep meeting people I know all the time like in the different random places like it's probably because less people so you can notice people you know you can see them like, hi oh my god how are you doing? But also I like I'm a runner I run in Central Park almost every day or ride a bike. Awesome. Everyday you see the same people so it's kind of feels like a village after a certain amount of time. However and you know because New York's so diverse and different it's never the same experience.
Yeah, that's that's what that's the other thing I heard about even in Vancouver they say its like people from Vancouver they say its not like a big city. But I - like you. I came from like a small village Monica's a small town in Italy. And for me, like Vancouver still feel like a big city. And it says, if you're stay in one side, every single part of the city, every suburb its kind of like its own kind of like a village on its own. But probably because I haven't lived there for that long I don't still, I don't feel that yet.
Yeah yeah yeah. I'm you know I can relate definitely and I'm sure in the big city like Vancouver you always can find something to do like you know in comparison to a small village.
Yeah no no, that's true. But yeah I miss I miss that feeling like you're you will go out you'll see the people and know what people don't know in my own town I used to go to that same bar. You don't even have to call your friends whatever you - when it's time to go out you go to the bar you find somebody there, I kinda like missed that situation.
You know it's interesting that you're saying this. In New York I had this situation all the time even before COVID, you go to the bar and you meet people because probably people in New York are so diverse and people a lot of tourists coming here and and even local people are so open to talk to you. I could go to bar restaurant by myself and I always set an amazing conversation meeting people and I never you know, this will look very interesting thing about New York, I never feel - felt alone here. Some people feel very lonely but I never felt alone - lonely because people are pretty friendly you can go on the street especially in the morning all day like you know this construction guys or trash drag drivers they say hi and then just random people in the park and tell you say. New Yorkers are not as friendly as people like would say like you go to California or you go to Southern States but still you know I kind of feel it especially if you're local if you go to the same like bars and restaurants, people get to know you and then they will even remember what you like, what you don't like so it kind of also feels very warm and nice and cozy.
I'm kind of surprised because I always heard that people in New York are not really friendly so what you described is feels like completely different from my idea in New York.
It depends because you know, people in New York are rough. And you know, you can instead of good morning you can hear "f* u" sometimes. And people have no time for like you know, "bs" and other things. However, in general you can meet a lot of friendly people, as I mentioned before, because New York's so different. There's so many different people here and some are nasty, and some are they're very nice and sweet.
And, why did you leave your country?
It's very interesting question why. I came to the US couple of times before I moved here and when I came here for the first time, for me it was a mind blowing experience. It felt like I came to the different planet. And I'm very funny I came first time not inNew York, in Florida. And the very like also like small town in Florida, but in general, just quality of life and everything else was so different than in Ukraine and I was very happy to be here and I be- you know, began fantasizing about moving here, but I couldn't because I had my life in Ukraine, I was married I you know had a work and like everything all my life was in Ukraine. So we came with my ex husband couple of times here, we traveled so I've seen different cities, including New York. And then as I mentioned before, we got divorced. And I realized nothing's actually keeping me in the country. But I wasn't ready to move. And then I moved to Kiev. And it was very interesting because like, I had a good career and work and like my nickname was a fitness expert. And I was like on TV and like no, not like a big star obviously, but you know, pretty popular there and had a good life. However, I found myself spending probably two weeks out of four have been somewhere not in Kiev. So I kept running away from myself. I kept traveling, kept going in like Europe and somewhere else and somewhere else and somewhere else. And I came, I remember this day I took my mom to Montenegro for a vacation and we went to this like, trip to the lake, and we were driving back in the beautiful road and I was looking at the sea, and I was thinking and reflecting, and then I realized that I'm not happy. And like I have everything kind of, but I'm not happy and it's time to realize my dream and move to the US. So that was the time and I told my mom and I bought one way ticket the same day. And I gave myself deadline, one month and a half to prepare for the move to like, sell everything to let go my apartment to like, you know, give away all the stuff. So yeah, this is there was a reason to just I would want to have a change. I, I felt like, you know, I love Ukraine. It's a great country. However, the government is so corrupted, and I didn't see any future not for myself, not also for my future kids. I know it sounds weird that I'm like a single woman without kids thinking about kids, but probably it's on the you know, instincts are something, help us to think about it that if we want to reproduce ourselves what future would I have for my kids? And when I came for the first time in the US, I looked around and like I want my kids to, you know, grow on like - being raised in the country like this where you have a good quality of life, freedom of speech, and, you know, other things. And when I was moving here, I knew it was gonna be hard for me. But I was thinking about my future kids are gonna say, thank thanks, Mom that you moved to the US. So, and, you know, I decided to take a risk and I had zero regrets about it.
Awesome. I have a couple of questions. First of all, you say that you got a ticket, a one way ticket it was, you wasn't where you were with your mom right?
How did your mom take the decision?
This is very good question. Probably you know, based on your experience, I'll tell you, when I came for the first time from US, and it was probably like four years, or five years before I moved. I told my mom, mom, oh my god, this is such a beautiful country. I want to move there, she was hysterical. She was crying, she was crying. She was like, seriously, she didn't take it well, she's like, what are you gonna, what I'm gonna do? And then you know, I kind of prepared her for this thought and idea over years, and when the time came, and also, you know what, how she started travelled a little bit with me. And I showed her a different world and she realized that some things are much better than just you know, taking care of your household and saving money to buy a new like dishwashing like thing a machine or something else. She realized that there's going to be better for me and hopefully one day when we have a better political situation, everything else I'll be able to bring my mom here this is my obviously of course goal eventually when I can, and you know, it takes time and now it seems like nearly impossible with the current situation here, we'll see. So she took it well, she did well, but you know, it took me like four or five years to prepare her for this moment.
Okay, you know, because in my experience, I did have four or five years I, I think I applied. She didn't even know I applied for the visa to go to New Zealand. And I kind of like annoying not really knowing what I was going to do. And I think a got like more scared when I actually got approved. In fact, I remember telling my friends like oh, I think I did something, they were like what did you do? Like yeah, I applied for a visa in New Zealand and they approve it so I guess I'm going to New Zealand. So I told my mom like a time like in three or four months I was ready to leave. And she didn't even really know where New Zealand was when you look in the map like, Daniel really can you find like a closer place like, Mom see the bright side if I move from there everything else will be closer. In fact when I got ready I bought a laptop and you know when you order things online you can have a like a gift like a wrapping gifts and they can give you back a message. So I've wrapped my own thing like it was was for me about like, okay, I like a present so let's let's wrap it up, and I put like a quote on and like this message on. And I think the quote, it wasn't Italian I was paraphrasing it says, don't cry for me that I leave but think that if it's raining, I went to see the sun to search for the sun or for the sunshine, something like that.
Yes, I love it.
And she still has it attached on the fridge.
And it's so sweet. You know, Italian moms are special. I know that. It's so sweet. I love this story.
Thanks and how easy it was for you to move to the US and get a visa and stay?
It's not it's not easy like you know - it's easy probably for people that get married here going like you know meeting someone and winning green cards which is you know, I played so many times that were one of like you know my my way is more complicated. It's complicated I did a lot of you know, like I don't like a discuss like immigration processes only because I made so many mistakes myself and I always recommend people to hire very good lawyer and because very good lawyer will help you to understand your situation what you can do, like in my case, like I'm still in my way of getting green card and if I wouldn't do the mistakes I did in the beginning, if I would have a good lawyer and and which I didn't obviously you know, it would be much easier I would have already green card and everything all set before, you know, before the current situation when everything goes. Guys, are way slower and people are waiting forever for interviews now. It's just like unbelievable what's happening in last four years, and I don't know what's going to be happening next four years waiting for November for our elections. So yeah, it wasn't easy for sure. And like a lot of my friends it's not easy for most of the people to immigrate here and now it became nearly impossible because the new rules and you know, anti immigration policies you know, that are being lobbied by our president and everything else. So yeah, it's still you know, it's complicated so I'm still waiting and everything backlogged now especially with COVID everything got worse, like I was hoping to, you know, to finalize everything like this year but no, nothing is happening this year for sure.
No, I don't think so either. But how did you - so when you move to the US did you have like, some kind of permit or you went as a tourist?
Oh, I went as a tourist. Yeah. And then you go on the journey and this is a journey its complicated because you know, because the thing is I decided so fast and for me there was no other way to come here and I spoke to a couple of my friends and like to lawyer and they say, you know, you can come you can do this and that so they're like, you know, different options used to be and now it was actually like way complicated. And also I gave myself such a short period of time like one month and a half and I had to even change the deacons because before, you know, when I was there getting ready to depart to the US, the Russians, you know, remember shut down this airplane that were flying to Europe with the like civilians. I don't know if you know this or not, but it was like really horrible event. And I was so scared that they're going to like close Ukraine and didn't let anybody like fly. You know, it was very difficult time, like, I lived through two revolutions in Ukraine. And like, it's really, really some crazy stuff was happening, so I changed my tickets to two weeks earlier. I had to like I need to I need to leave the country because it's getting crazy and it was like really scared time because the war between Russia and Ukraine was like on the south escalating and the revolutions and then they you know it just so you know it's hard to even think about it but it's still it's still not, the situation didn't improve in Ukraine. That's very sad.
Okay but just for just for to understand because most people I interview and most people I know they moved to the new country and they need to find a job in your situation was a little bit different you had your own career right so you you were able to continue your career that you had in Ukraine?
Yeah, so this is one of the reasons well like why I thought I can, you know, move here and feel comfortable, at least in the beginning, because I moved here with no English, my English like was some very, very bad, very basic, and I couldn't understand what people were saying and read. I had pretty successful online business like in fitness so I was helping people to create nutrition plans. And work out plans and you know, back then six years ago, it was becoming so popular and I have my online courses and everything else so it was generating some revenue for me so it was like good enough because before moving here of course I reached out to my friend that live here like we're not very close we were not close friends, but you know, I want to ask like, you know how much money he spends on like on groceries and you know, rent and everything else so he told me I calculated and I'm like, you know, I should be good for there for whatever like time and also you need to spend on a lawyer and other things and then also, I sold my car, I had some savings obviously. So I brought it it's not like I came here with $100 no this is like not my story. But I came here with no English no friends, basically, you know, and not very close people I would know and like no family. So I moved here and the first time I was doing this, but then you know, I started learning English and because I'm pretty good personal trainer. I decided to you know, try to do something like this here obviously when I got my work permit like six months after I moved here and my social security. So once I got this and my English got better, I started looking for clients you know and this is it's been a you know, it's been a process especially I felt very shy and not very confident enough to train people because my English. And I was doing some like you know, before I was doing some modeling and you know pictures, photoshoots and oh, this is also you could find some gigs to get paid of course so the creeps also I ran into during this time because see here like a lot of weird people photographers kind of you know, it's like, you know, I've seen I've seen a lot of like crazy stuff here in New York. And I was even working with helping one photographer look normal guy to run errands and do other stuff. So you know, I was doing a lot of things before I actually was able to you know, find my - build a good career and find my path. So it took me a couple of years. And also meanwhile, I was doing this, I decided to go to school because I wanted to build a career here and I realized my master's degree in Ukrainian language and literature is not applicable in here. So, I had to go back to school so I went to, like study for TOEFL and pass TOEFL and then I applied to school and I had to pay for school you know, but it's pretty it's not very expensive, especially if you go to like City University in New York City, it's pretty affordable they have like, you know, this payment plans. So yeah, but in the beginning, it was it was hard, you know, I had to do like different things. However, the fact that I had already some business that was helping me in the beginning, it was really good. The only one like downside you make money like in rubles and and then you have to spend in dollars. So you know, it's a huge difference.
Yes. And is that the reason why you moved to New York, its like I related to your business and you thought that was a good spot to start your business, to continue your business or just because you like the city?
Oh no, I like I like the city as I mentioned, I had like a friend not even friend we knew each other he was working as a trainer too in the city where I was living in Ukraine. And he moved to the US before me. And you know, around that time because it was such a bad time in Ukraine, the war and revolution everything else. A lot of people fled Ukraine to Europe to the US. I personally know probably like seven people from my city that moved here to the US and most of them actually moved to New York. So I moved here because he told me like you know, come here for the first like couple months you can stay with me. We were he was renting a basement apartment like really horrible like apartment but you know, you come in there, you know, you know, you have to pay a price. And I move from beautiful, gorgeous huge apartment with walk in closet, in Kiev to basement apartment in Russian area in Brooklyn. And also, you know, people move there, they don't speak any English they stay there for entire life. It's like very weird place. So I moved there, there's this basement apartment because it was cheap, we could afford it. And I'm moved there because I knew him he said I'm gonna, you know, help you out to introduce you to the lawyer and all of this stuff. And this is how our people you know, immigrate so the one person immigrate then other and then another and then they share with each other's experience so this is why I came to New York and I fell in love with the city and I loved I loved it before but I spent a look five days like back, you know, during my second trip to the US. And I fell in love and I stayed here and I'm still here.
Awesome. And how did you learn the language? Did you take any ourses or just just talking to people?
It's very it's very funny. Just talking to people for a couple of reasons. First of all, I didn't have money to go to like school to learn English. I had to, you know, work and make money like doing other things I could like at training and stuff. Also, I hate going like to school physically, I'm very self motivated. I like studying I like learning online. So what I was doing I was first of all, I was watching Sex in the City with subtitles so I learned a lot of you know, phrases and language watching Sex in the City, which is one of my favorite shows. I don't watch TV by the way, and I watch only a couple of shows in my life and this is one of them. And I watched it like four times like all these six seasons its crazy. So I was watching Sex in the City and then because I and I'm a simple girl, I moved to New York so I started going on dates. And the most important thing for me was just do stop being shy. It's okay to make mistakes. And it's been so helpful because the people in America in general are, you know, you're an immigrant if you try and they really appreciative, they tried to help you. So texting, talking to guys and going on dates to talk in person really helped me to improve my English and also I was taking courses on Coursera website with the subtitles. I was like choosing topics I like like psychology or something else and it also helped me a lot to build my vocabulary. So I didn't go into any classes nothing and for TOEFL I prepared myself and I was shocked when I passed and I was shocked when I had my highest like you know, score was on the speaking part. I thought it's gonna be the worst and the worst was grammar of course because I didn't go to school. So it was pretty funny man. Yeah, I learned myself and because I had to, I wanted to go to work, you know, to make money, to study and also when I went to school, and I went to school like in a year since I moved here like in a year I was already studying online, psychology. And it helped me a lot because psychology helps me read a lot of books and all of this and it was very challenging in the beginning, but you know as you go, you learn more and you become better.
And also I just as I said, like even I when I moved to New Zealand, same thing I didn't speak didn't speak English and watching TV shows which helped others was a huge help. Even though I was able I got to the point where I was able to understand English speaker in the movie which is American accent then in New Zealand with Kiwis with just completely different accent and I couldn't understand a thing nothing.
What did just happened I can understand everything in my room. I walked out some miles out of my room and I can't speak to anybody. It was kind of like a weird and I think is you said that you even studying helped you? But other thing I noticed that you can learn English its kinda like it's got its own different kinds of languages because if you speak in a professional way, it's a different language then you speak with your friends. Like if you study psychology, the terminology that you use in a book is now some terminology that you would use in a normal conversation with friends, right?
Yeah, definitely. But also, you know, because I have I had and I still have some career aspirations. It's important for me to learn professional English, and now I'm working I changed my career and I worked in the hospital. So totally different areas. So I'm not like, I'm still training people in the side because, you know, in New York, you have like two three jobs, hustle and bustle. But my main job now in a hospital administration, and there I have to present and lead meetings and send emails and all of this and because I want to build my career, my English has to be professional and I think I need to learn more and there's so many things I can improve.
Okay, so the kind of like studying that language was useful in your career more than having the conversation day to day.
Definitely. But also, you know, in New York City you meet so many interesting people and someone very educated and some of them extra ordinary with amazing stories. So if you want to hold the conversation with them and look smart and impressive them, so you have to use particular language.
And do you have any regrets about leaving your country?
No regrets. The only one thing that just say I miss my family, obviously but other than that, no regrets. I love the country and but here I feel, feel at home. And it's it's very weird, right and being like being raised in one country and moving to another and calling this country like second home but it is became my home like New York when I'm here I feel so comfortable and you know, I feel connected.
So for you to call a place home, which one would it be New York or?
New York. Yeah, definitely right now in New York and honestly, before it was weird in Ukraine, I never felt like it's my home. It was like, you know, home, my parents, home it was, you know, it's your parents' home. And I left my parents when I was 16 when I went to school so I was by myself since I'm 16. So for me, it's not a new concept there being like, living somewhere and you know, being a big girl, or having seen my family for a while, but then, you know, I never felt like moving from one apartment to another even being there as soon with my ex husband I know it felt like It's like my home home. And here when I moved here, like oh, New York, my home I don't think I will ever call it my home. And then I realized after like, probably three years or so when I went to like, I don't remember some other states like South Carolina or somewhere else, and I was flying back and I see the New York outside of you know, the window and I'm like, oh my miss my home. I'm home, now I feel like home you know, just you just get outside and it's so you feel so familiar. I feel so connected even with this like dirty subway and, and some crazy stuff now it gets a little bit worse than it was before but you know, you're kind of okay with it. It's part of your personality.
Yeah, that's interesting. And what's the biggest upside about immigrating, about leaving your country?
Ah, it's I think the opportunities because moving here, you know, they say New Yorkers land of like America is the land of opportunities, right? And New York is also the city where you know that your dreams come true. But the thing is, only a few people really make it here. When I came here I was like walking around like, Oh my god, you can feel you can you can smell the opportunities in the air. And that's true, but you have to work your butt off so hard here. New York is unforgiving, and New York is the rough, you have to sacrifice, sacrifice a lot of things, and not everybody is willing and I wouldn't say it's for everybody and I wouldn't say that it's healthy in general. It's very difficult to maintain a balance and stay a normal person and like working like crazy, like 24 hours and, you know, running this rough race, you have to find your balance and and it's always a challenge. However, there are opportunities that are as I mentioned before, amazing people you meet. There are ways to grow and I don't know if I'm gonna live in New York my entire life, especially when I have a family. I didn't see myself raising my child like in Manhattan let's say but you never know unless I live in Park Avenue or East Avenue and huge like, like I or townhouse somewhere probably perhaps, with my backyard. Otherwise, I don't know. probably to move to the suburbs, but close to the city. However, here, I grew a lot as a person on many, many different ways and culturally and mentally, I, you know, it really shaped me and I came here as like, you know, naive girl. And I became like, strong, independent woman that knows what she wants. And, you know, it's been amazing transformation. I think the city itself contributed a lot to this.
I think that contributing to grow your business, to improve your business?
Yeah, you know, it kind of is very interesting the immigration itself challenged me in so many different ways that I realized that everything is possible. Because when I moved here, I first I didn't have any plan, like, you know, and I'm the person with a plan. I need to have a plan, what I'm doing, where I'm going. So I came up with like, probably in like, three or four months after moving here with a plan that I want to go to school. I want to do the career. I didn't know yet what I want to do, but I had my eye on psychology because I like helping people, obviously, like, you know, and personal training is a great career, I was making really, really good money. I was working in Manhattan, I have very wealthy clients, you know, they pay you well. However, I never considered this as a career, I cannot imagine myself running around to my clients from like, try backpack to Upper East Side, Upper West Side in my 40s and 50s. You know, you can make money, but also you depend on your clients, if your clients in the city, you train them, if they travel, they get sick, if they get married or something else, you lose a client, of course, you can get a new one, but you always depend on your clients. And this is not a good way of living and making money. Because one month you can make like $10,000 and another month you can make $5,000 you know what I mean? So this is not really great way of doing this. So I want to have a steady career and I'm most very ambitious person I wanted to challenge myself. So I decided to go to school I studied psychology, and originally I want to become a psycho therapist probably I don't know, because I like it. So I went to school then when I was studying for TOEFL, I didn't believe that I can actually pass it because I was studying by myself. My English was horrible. And I pass it I'm like, Okay, this is good. So when I came to school to meet with a counselor, asked her how fast can I get degree because, you know, were immigrants were coming to new country, a certain age I was in my like, late 20s. I had no time to like, wait, or think what I going to do I want to act. I need to do this, this and this. And she says, you can get your degree in two years, however, and it's a bachelor's degree because I had to start over I have a master's degree, I had to do a bachelor's degree again, because like total different so its in two years, but you know, it's full time. I'm like, full time, wow, I'm like, no, I don't think I can make it. But then like you know, I'll try. And guess what, two years later, I did it. I got a degree in two years and then I realized I can do everything. It's like immigration itself gave me such a crazy like, strength. leaving everything behind and coming to the country and when things are happening for you, if you work hard, obviously, you know, and this is what I like about America. Like if in Ukraine, you work hard and you're not guaranteed going to be successful, because some, even if you build a successful business, somebody can come and take your business, if they like your business, you know. Here, I don't know, any person that will work hard and be like really goal oriented, hard working, and never succeed. Everybody succeeds, you know, at some point, so, this happened to me, like I got a degree in two years. I you know, it was hard, but I was also because I was working full time, you know, I was I became a very good, you know, trainer and I had a lot of clients, I used to have like, eight clients a day like it was like insane, and also commute, like, you know, some of the eight clients you have to go from one client to another because I had like my clients. So then, it inspired me to like run a marathon and I run a marathon here and then I realized, like, you know, you can do like different things. So I think Immigration itself started this process when I started believing in myself more and doing like challenging myself. And the same time, you know what helped me a lot. I'm not setting any expectations, like, I want to get my degree in two years. If I don't get it, it's fine, but I'll try. And when you are not afraid of making a mistake, or you are not afraid of failing, but you're willing to work hard, like things happen to you, you're not afraid of trying, you know, and pushing yourself. So the same with a new career it was like scary, you know, to go to the new area and start building your new career in your 30s and it was like, well, even down from what I was getting money, but I knew I had to start like, you know, like no to entry, but almost entry level position to build my career. But now after two years, I got a promotion, you know, and slowly, I'm learning more and hopefully I'm gonna build the career I want.
Yeah, that's a great, great story. Um, I I asked you before, like a couple of days ago over the message, but I'll ask you again about your your certificates or your degrees. Because what happened to me that I, when I start like studying and get the certificates when I moved when I actually emigrated just to show that despite I didn't speak the language, I wasn't able to communicate properly. I had like a piece of paper that showed that I knew what I was talking about. I knew I knew the job. Was that something that pushed you to get more degrees?
Oh, yeah, that's a good question. I think the certificates and education is important here in the US, especially if you're coming from another country like you're nobody like basically like, nobody needs you. There are a lot of other people they want job that were born here, raised here, they got education here, right? And you're coming here like oh, give me a job. So of course you to prove like when I came here, actually I had as a trainer, I had already two certificates, American - I did it online while being in Ukraine with no English. I had to I had to hire persons who helped me to translate like you know some real story with Ukrainian like ridiculous but then I did it you know I had already certifications I could train people once but I like studying like learning new things so I kept getting different certifications but also it did add it to my portfolio to my profile like my CV and more you know like the reputation that people are looking, oh she got this and this and that she knows this and then so of course it has more more weight to it you know and the people really look at you and I've seen a lot of people saying that you know that they considered my like, you know me as a personal trainer because I have all this certifications the same with degree I would never be able to go to work at the hospital without Americans agree with my master's degree in Ukranian literature. No way I would never get into you know, this field. And you know, it's very respectable its really great area to work. And I only got it you know, because I got my bachelor's degree somewhere to just to step into it. And now I'm going for MBA in healthcare. Because I know if I want to build a career and if I want to make money I want to have in my mind, I have to get it because experience is important, but also degrees important. Why? Because I do know people that move here like, say 20 years ago, they have a bachelor's degree, they don't have anything else they got in here, but they're like super successful. However, 20 years ago, it was possible when you come here 20 years to go get a degree and everything else, you build a career now, the competition is so crazy. So you have to especially you're an immigrant, so you have to have not only experience but you have to degree and other things. So definitely you know, it makes me stronger candidate comparing to other people and say and you know, there are a lot of people to compete with.
Yeah, do you think like, because every country is different, but do you think like in the US, because you you are an immigrant, it's harder you start like from behind other people so you have to prove that you know things. You have to need more more qualification, more experience than to be in competition with the people from the from the US that are born there?
Certainly I never felt much you know, I had a different experience of course there were some discrimination at some level but then generally, I wouldn't say this however I if you were coming to you want to be hired, then there is a person they got a degree in from American school and your coming as an immigrant, and your English is not great and other things. So most likely you won't be chosen, you know, this is other things so you have to be really outstanding. That's why you know, the really good people doing really great in America they're very high skilled professionals like doctors and or programmers right like IT IT guys and all of this, but if you're coming just you know, with like regular degree and people like, whatever like, you know, it's harder you have to be really high skilled and you have to have all this or skills or education or better both. Then you can be considered you know, as a good candidate for sure there is you know, it's harder.
Yeah, I agree hundred percent. And what was the biggest challenge that you had to face?
Biggest challenge knowing oh my god so, so many challenges I had. Honestly it sounds funny. My biggest challenge was to sign a lease for apartment in New York City. Because when I came here, first I came and I was like, renting this apartment with my friend for 3 a month in a Russian area. And this is what he rented through someone so you didn't have to have papers. And then after three months, I decided you know what, I want to move to Manhattan if I if I if I want to make it I need to move to Manhattan. I always can come back to Russian area but if I want to learn a language if I want to find the clients if I want to meet really, you know, amazing people, I need to move to Manhattan. And to find an apartment in Manhattan I didn't know that because I'm moving in my country you just say oh, I wanted this apartment, you move, you give money and this is it there is no lease nothing. And here I realized I didn't know this I realized you need to sign a lease. I have no credit history yet. You need to have a credit history you need to have like this and that and then and I didn't have anything so but I wanted to live in Manhattan. So I went through like really crazy stuff. And then finally I found one room with a roommate through Airbnb. So the girl she was in kind of long term rentals. And then I went to see apartment. It was like a really tiny, east village, you know, very noisy, but I'm like, I'm taking it because I couldn't find anything. It was impossible for people to say, oh, can you sign the lease with me? I'm like, what what is a lease? So I live with her for a year and this is the village apartment and I was dreaming about my apartment and by back - by that time I was already had a good credit history I started building it earlier. I had some income I could prove and stuff and also had a friend who said he would be my guarantor and after seeing the city apartment and trying to apply it to three or four apartments, I finally got the lease and but it was so challenging. It was so hard you even cannot imagine so I would say this was the most challenging thing so far. For me, I know it sounds funny but it's true.
No no no I get it, I get it. Like these little things especially if you find a place first of all probably is really expensive to find a place in in New York right? And if it's so expensive that means that like a lot of demand. So yes, if more demand then more candidates. I never been to the US but I heard that you need that credit history is a really important thing you need to build like as soon as possible like early on.
Yep, that's true. And there's a trick there's a trick how you can build it before even you have social security. So you can open in Bank of America, probably someone can find this helpful information is somebody recommend this to me, it's worked. So in Bank of America, you can open a credit line, but when you put your money towards credit, it's like, I don't remember the name of this program. But you know, you can people can easily find out. So let's say I put there like $2,000, and I use it my dollars, but I use it as a credit card. So even before you have social security, you can do this. And once you get a social security, you already have a credit if you've been doing this you've been using because what's important to show that you can use take a credit but pay it back. So I was like buying groceries and coffee and other things like I bought and put money back, I bought and put money back and I was like but then by the time when I get my social security, I already had a credit so you're not starting from zero. So it was a really good advice.
How long does it take to get a what you call like a social security number?
So, yeah, it was like in six months, you know when I got my work authorization but uh, you know, depends like, you know what process the person is going. If it's marriage or something else, so everybody's different but you usually get it when you're like status approved or you're getting into like some kind of process so you're getting social security and work authorization. And you know, the the craziest thing for me about the immigration in the US like, right, I'm still in the process and it's like, very complicated, and I have like, almost zero rise before I get my green card. Like, I'm nobody here, but I'm paying taxes. I'm paying taxes like everybody else. And taxes in New York are crazy. I've paid a lot of money to government and everything else. And it's a paradox and you're nobody like you know, you're considered as nobody. You cannot do this, this and that. Like so for me this is like one of the craziest thing about immigration here.
Yeah, so um go back to the social security, so it was like six months because you can get a social security number only when you get a permit to work right?
Yeah i think i think so you know I again I'm like I'm no expert on like immigration process but I think you you get involved together because once you get a work permit then you can go work and you need to report your taxes and everything else is a real you know. And then you can open credit card like a real credit card when you have social security.
Before you before you can open credit card, but you can open this one I forgot the name of it, but yeah.
Okay. Yeah, I will look into it and I will just put everything in the show notes. If you could go back in time if you have like a some kind of like a time machine, if you go back in time is there anything that you would have done differently?
Oh, yeah, I was. I was getting very good lawyer. Immigration lawyer and that was I'll already have a green card. I'm going into like my citizenship. This is all this is not only one thing I would change, I wouldn't date one person to there was the one psycho. He was really bad for me for my mental health then, you know? Because I had like this bad relationship actually, I started running so some good things came out of it. But definitely I would move here I would find a good lawyer. This is the only one thing that you know, even though it's frustrating that things are going like very erratic. I think this is my way I probably have to go through this journey and not just get everything like so easy and you know, and more into my life. So probably it makes me stronger. Who knows? Who knows? I'll find out. And like in a couple of years, probably we're gonna be reflecting back.
Yeah, hopefully in a couple of years. You'll have your green card and you'll be.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Thank you. Thank you.
Because that's a long long process because then you get a green card and before you become a citizen and have a passport its gonna be years and years and years.
Yeah, it takes a lot of time, especially right now. You know, everything just slow down. Everything is backlog, like It's unbelievable. Like even like even people that get approved green card, they cant have green cards now, people that are about to become citizens, they're no, they cannot go to this, you know, the citizen, whatever ceremony. And but you know, there's political reasons so people cannot vote. So this is another thing so it's all political. But we're suffering of course, immigrants who else?
Yeah, that's true. But that's, that's why we're, you'd be stronger than other, we are more resilient. And we are willing to give more than people born in the country because we, they take most things for granted, which I used to take the great things for granted when I was in Italy. And now because you live in a different different country that you have to work your butt off, as you said, to have the same kind of status and the same kind of lifestyle that people that are born here, right?
Yeah, yeah, I agree with you 100%. And I met a couple of Americans they were like really admitting they were saying, we have no clue what you're going through and I know we're sure it's it's crazy. And when people tell me oh, you learn English so fast, your English's so good, you probably have a talent for languages. I'm like, no, it's not a talent. I came here I'm hungry. I want to succeed. Like I'm not gonna see it in a way like, around you know when it's gonna ever happen for me. I came here in my late 20s I'm 35 almost years old. I need to act fast if I want a cylinder in my life, you know, talent yeah, talent. It's, you know, it's hard work and greed. This is it. This is all in talent. So yeah, I agree. I agree with you.
No, I totally actually had a similar situation today I went to the chiropractor and was asked me what I was what my plan for the weekend are like, yeah, I have to work and these guys told me oh, you're like a such a like a hard worker like. Because I'm afraid that like, I don't know for how long they're gonna take, I have my job because the current situation, I don't no, I'm an AV technician. So AV is like audio visual is like a, the last thing the company needs in an organization. If the company does have the money, the first thing to cut off is the expensive TVs in the boardroom, the superficial. So I don't know for how long so I need to save. I need to take care of myself. If I don't have a job they'll kick me out of the country. I'm in here in the country just because they need me for work if I don't have a job, they'll kick me out. So I need to have a plan B and that's kind of thing that fuels me and I think that fuels other immigrant like us that you don't have a safety net. If you find something goes wrong, you have to go you have to leave the country right?
Yeah. I agree with you.
So you can't afford to, especially if you're leaving your country for a good reason, you don't want to go back. You need to have a plan B and need to work your butt off just to stay in the country or to have a second chance to move to a new country. So this there's so much that things don't take him for granted they take for granted that they don't they don't see it.
Yeah. I agree.
I mean even like in the last few months even the black life matters. I dont want to become like go into politics and go into it because I don't know much about it but people like me I've never been to the US for me, racism is something that I fall was something from the past like a people smoking on the airplane, something like like that like if I was like okay. It's something from the past it's and I had to go to this point and see these things in TV to figure out that it's actually something real it you don't know you don't know until you see things like that.
I agree with you when I moved here this was another thing like you know, racism is what we see like on TV or like somewhere like you know, you read in books. And when I came here I was shocked to realize like the things that are happening here actually like on everyday basis and just blew my mind and you well living in such a like progressive country like even all the countries in the world right progressive countries with their racism are so widespread but I agree with you you coming here because in you you're shocked with everything what's happening like you can't believe that this is real.
Yeah I think what I should call the first like a shock to have when I watched the movie Hidden Figures. I don't know if you watch the movies about like this woman at NASA the first time they went on the moon which is humans in the 70s which is like 17 years ago and no it's like a 50 years ago. And you think like like open minded people and intelligent people smart people like people at NASA should be like a more open mind. But still even back then they're like a different bathroom for like, people and white people and it was just like, oh, even like a sitting on on the bus they were like they have to sit on the back. It like crazy I though it's something something for like a, I don't know 100 years ago, 200 years ago, so I feel like it just like honestly, its just like a crazy. I wasn't expected that. I didn't know that those things that are completely off my mind that just I can't I don't know, I can't really wrap my hand around it why people are racist against people with different color.
Yes, I agree with you, for me its the same, you know, and, and I'm glad actually like to be in New York and to be in America during these times because I can experience this and I can support it and I can like raise my voice and like, be at least a part of the movement, in some ways. So obviously, of course, like, you know, we're having this conversation. We will never understand what these people are going through, right. We can sympathize, but we will never understand. However, you know, it's great to be on this side. And you know, for me, it's really heart wrenching to see a lot of actually people from Eastern Europe are racist. And I'm not saying all of them but I see a lot of racist comments and on Instagram and my feed, it makes me very sad too you know, adds up to like, everything was happening here in America like and also like in the entireworld, and seeing also people are like people from my country or other conscious like Eastern European like being racist This is even more painful for me.
You know you're right because I think at least from my experience in Europe in Italy. I think we're going through a new wave of racism from people moving from different from other country go into Italy or France or whatever to find the job and there's like a new racism growing up and I wasn't I didn't remember like the people being racist when I was a kid. I think people start getting more like a racist now. But I think it's just that is just all politics. It's just like the government they put people against each others and and they create racism that's the thing. I think in America its all about protecting the past I don't know much about it. But I think comes from from from from from the past, from the history. While in Europe its a new thing. I think that's completely politics, by the - by by the government.
Yeah. Yeah, it's sad.
Yeah, I agree. Anyway, it was a pleasure having you on the show. Thanks for being here.
Thank you so much. It was really great talking to you. I also had a lot of fun and pleasure. And yeah, we'll stay in touch.
Absolutely. And if people want to wants to reach out to you, I want to see your work, how they can find you. What's the best way to find you?
So the best way to find me now is on my Instagram, it's a Darya_Karolina. Yeah, I have a website too, but it's in Russian so I don't think people are gonna use it. But I share a lot of stuff on my Instagram so they can see my life in New York and the things I'm doing so yeah, definitely this is gonna be the best way to reach out to me or just connect.
Awesome. I will definitely put your your link in the in the show notes. Awesome. Thanks again for being for being my guest today.
Thank you, Daniel. Have a good one.
Thank you. You too. Bye.
Thank you so much for tuning in this week. I hope you find this episode interesting. And maybe even got inspired by our story. If you want to support the show, you can share this episode and you can leave us a review on Apple podcasts. And also do you want to be on the show and share your story? Visit emigrantslife.com/your story. Thanks again for listening. Talk to you next one. Ciao!
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