In today’s episode, I enjoyed speaking with Heidy De La Cruz. Heidy is the host of The American Dream in The Eyes of Immigrants. This podcast is about sharing the stories of immigrants first memories of the US, the culture shocks they experienced, and their journey in learning how to navigate a whole new country. You can also watch our interview on YouTube:
Here are the following websites you can use to connect with Heidy De La Cruz:
TJ: This podcast is dedicated to helping you find your trail to a happier, healthier you by discussing topics like self improvement, business, health and beauty and random thoughts about life from a Christian perspective. I’m your host Tosha Johnson. In today’s episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Heidi Dela Cruz. Heidi is the host of the American dream in the eyes of immigrants. This podcast is about sharing the stories of immigrants, their first memory of the US, the cultural shocks they experienced and their journey learning to navigate a whole new country. Welcome to the show. Heidi!
HC: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to speak with you today.
TJ: Absolutely, absolutely. So why don’t you tell us about yourself?
HC: Yes. So I first and foremost, love to say that I am a believer, wife, mom of two. I have my day job as a medical coding analyst. And then I do my podcast. I’m a writer, and I’ve published my poetry book last year. So, I have a few things going.
TJ: Terrific! Oh, my goodness. Well, you have to be sure to share that with me. So, I can put that in the show notes as well.
HC: Thank you.
TJ: Fantastic. Well, I want to ask a little bit more about what inspired you to create this podcast because I think it’s so unique. And quite frankly, the topic is so timely.
HC: Yeah. Yes. Um, so I want to say, back in 2019, God really put into my heart to start a podcast, I was listening to many podcasts back in the time, you know, I still do. And I was just like, I want to start a podcast about highlighting people, I guess your average person just highlighting what they’re doing in their life. Just because I thought I was thinking like, you know, people are doing tremendous things. And they don’t really realize that they’re doing tremendous things or realize that they’re, you know, impacting others and things like that.
So I wanted to, like just have a friend come on, we talked about the cool things that they’re doing in their lives. And that was the idea of the podcast that I was gonna start. And 2019 I was that’s when I initially started are wanting to start the podcasts. However, I was still doing my masters. And then 2020 We know what happened there. So I was just not in the mental space to start that. Although many businesses and podcasts did start in 2020. Kudos to you guys. But I was not in the mental space for that. 2021 I was pregnant with my son. And it was a very different pregnancy than my first one. So I was dealing with all that. So 2022 I said, Okay, it’s been a few years, it’s going to happen guy, I still really wanted to start a podcast.
So that was still you know, in my heart. But I have since I’m a writer, I write on medium. And I also read a lot of articles on medium. And so as I was gathering ideas, brainstorming of how I was going to put this podcast together, the name and everything, I was reading an article, and it was a migrant from Kenya. And she wrote about each cultural shock that she experienced here in the United States after moving really diminished her confidence, and really kind of like, not broke her self esteem. But you know, just kind of like kind of wanted to do like disappear a little bit. And it was just different things. It was just like, you know, with the accent and people not trying to understand her. The food’s been different and just different things like that.
So I was after reading that article, I went over to my husband, um, he’s also an immigrant. He came from the Dominican Republic at the age of nine. And I remember asking him, I was like, Hey, do you remember when he first came how you fell? Like what you saw? He was like, Oh, yes, I remember. Like, if it was yesterday, and he told me, you know, everything, like how he was in such awe of everything. He came from the Dominican Republic, straight to New York. So like, just seeing those tall buildings and like no trees and, and things like that, and just how excited he was because they were coming to live with their dad. So he was like, super excited. It was it was amazing to hear him that he could go back so vividly to a nine year old, you know, memory, because it was just so impactful. So I was like, wow, that right there is a podcast episode.
And then I was thinking like, we don’t really talk about that we don’t talk about when migrants get here, what they experience, how they feel cultural shocks that they experience because it’s a whole new world, literally, it’s a whole new world for them. And so I was like, You know what, that’s what my podcast was gonna be about. And my whole family are immigrants, right? So I’m a child of immigrants. My parents came from the Dominican Republic when I was in the 90s. I was born in New York and but like, you know, my aunts and uncles they all little by little migrated here to the United States. And so I am growing up, I saw firsthand like how it is to like, learn the language, navigate the systems here, like, okay, it’s different from you know, back in your home country, to, you know, go get your license disclaimer from to go get your license, and Dominican Republic has a lot more complicated what it is here.
So in that sense, they’re like, oh, my gosh, it’s so much easier, okay. You know, just different things like that, just comparing it back to your home country. And I remember, you know, having to translate documents for my dad having to go to the store and translate with him and picking, making doctor’s appointments and just, you know, over the phone and everything. So I’m just like, it’s a whole different experience for us that I don’t feel like it’s talked about enough.
So that was a long answer to your question, oh, really what inspired this podcast, I don’t get into the politics of it, I leave that to the side, what I really want to do is just share the stories share the experience, because the mission of the podcast is to change the narrative into a more compassionate and empathetic way. And I just feel like that the best way to do that is by storytelling, just by telling these stories, and I find that these stories are important. These people are image barriers are no child of, of God as well. So that is that is the American dream in the eyes of immigrants.
TJ: Wow. Wow. So I mean, your answer was, I love your answer. Super thorough, and I liked that. Don’t even think about that. But you know, as you were talking, I’m sitting here thinking about that is a lot of stress to put on a child to know that you’re trying to as a child, how were you able to kind of navigate through that, because that’s a lot, I would think, you know, there’s a lot of responsibility.
HC: And it was, and it’s a lot of butting heads, actually, with your parents, because you’re like, you’re a child, you don’t want to do this, right, you don’t want to take on that responsibility to read the document translated, and then try to explain what it is that even sometimes adults can’t even understand, you know, because like, you know, legal terms and, or whatever the case may be. And it was hard, because there was a lot of times, like, I don’t want to go to the store with my dad to translate like, I don’t, you know, and it was just a lot of butting heads, but then it’s like you, I mean, as a child, obviously, it’s harder to like, try to put yourself in your parents position, because you know, they come as an adult don’t know the language and things like that.
As a child, it’s easier to pick up the language or going to school, you’re watching TV shows in English and everything, while your parents, you know, they’ll they’ll still talk and do and watch Spanish channels, right? Or whatever language it is that they speak. So yeah, it was a lot of butting heads, I will say that it was a lot of arguing and doing things that you don’t want to do doing things, you know, just just because you had to help out. But then looking back, I mean, now as an adult, you know, looking back, it’s like, Man, I cannot just imagine, I can’t imagine what they were feeling like he like frustrated. And it’s like, I can’t understand, like, I don’t want to put this burden on you. But I don’t I don’t know what else you know, to do. Sure, sure.
TJ: So what is your definition of the American dream?
HC: Oh, I love this question. So my definition of the American Dream is really just living your dream, your purpose, with no restrictions, right. And the more I speak with different people from different countries, the more I realize, you know, there are a lot of freedom and privileges and things that we may not realize our freedom and privileges here. And so, since starting this podcast, yes, my definition of the American Dream has changed. I even wrote an article about it, like what is the new American dream, you know, and I really think is different for everybody. But for me, it’s just like the freedom to live your purpose. With no restrictions, especially like your faith, faith, faith based purpose just because we know and we hear how there’s certain you know, countries and cultures that doesn’t accept you know, the Christianity faith and if there are Christians in those countries, I do have to hide you know that they’re Christians and everything. So just living your purpose freely with no restrictions is my definition of the American dream.
TJ: Awesome. Awesome. So name three words that the immigrants in your series have in common.
HC: First, all brave,
TJ: because I Yeah. Yay. Yes.
HC: I crave resilience and definitely adaptable. I mean, I feel like also the adaptability is kind of like they have to attack. You know, like, once you know, you made the choice to come here. Now you have to like adapt, be be adaptable, or else you’re going to struggle, you know, but definitely brave, because it’s not an easy decision to leave everything in your home country, leave your culture, leave your language, leave family, to come start over from zero, sometimes not knowing the language, not knowing people hear, just trying to, you know, trust God and just come to make a better life for yourself. There is various different reasons why people come here. And I’ve definitely realized that a lot more with this podcast. Some people come as kids, so they don’t really have a choice. Some people come as adults. And there’s just one particular caste who I just recently published, she came for the solely purpose of finding her purpose. That was the reason why she came to the United States. Yes. And then I was like, that is really interesting. Because when you hear of immigration, or you think of immigration, you normally think of people like running from war, running from political conflict running, or just to get a better life. But she had a good life back home, she had a great career. She was making money, she had her apartment, her car, everything, but yet she did not feel feel fulfilled. So she was like, there’s something missing in my life. And she decided to move to a whole new country to find that purpose. And I’m just like, mind blown. So I was like, You are definitely brave, because I wouldn’t do it.
TJ: I wouldn’t do it either. And trust me, as someone who likes to travel, I’ve been quite a few places, but never have I found a place where I’m like, yeah, yeah, exactly. And just leave everything behind the good. Yeah, all that stuff. Yeah, that’s, that takes a different type of, like personality, I don’t have it.
HC: Definitely me either.
TJ: So when it comes to culture shock, what tends to be cited as American behavior that immigrants weren’t expecting, but have to become accustomed to? So I know, like some people say, Americans are always smiling or, you know, tends to be little stereotypes or whatnot. So I’m just kind of curious.
HC: So what I hear a lot is actually very, like, there’s not a lot of, well, depending on where you come to the United States gonna say there’s not a lot of foot traffic. But if you go to New York, like everybody’s like, walking subway, and things like that, but a lot of people Yeah, it’s just like the, it’s a quiet in their brain that he in the United States, because there’s not a foot traffic, there’s not like a lot of everybody’s in your car. Everybody’s following the traffic laws in the United States. So it’s like, organized. And also, they do get a lack of community when they get here, you know, it’s just kind of hard trying to, you know, hate, you have to find your people, you know, when you first arrived, so, a little bit of lack of community, but most, the most common is just if they have learned English, in a in their home country. Once they come here, they have to kind of like relearn, because it’s different, you know, yesterday, yeah. Yeah. So, you know, sometimes they’ll learn like the British English, right? Or just their accent, right? And sometimes it’s like, they know how to read and write it. But when it comes to speaking is completely different, right? So they’re, a lot of them says, like, well, I thought I learned I knew English. But once I got here, I realized, I didn’t know. Yeah,
TJ: That is so true. It’s funny that you say that because part time for the past one, oh, my goodness, maybe going on eight or nine years. I actually teach adult teach English to adults overseas. Okay, so it’s kind of funny when they hear me speak, and then they compare it to British English. And then sometimes they may talk to someone in the south, and they’re like, I don’t know what you guys got going on.
HC: Yeah, exactly. And that’s also true. Depends on where you are, again, where are you landing? So if you land up? I saw them that all the time. Yeah, still different.
TJ: Yeah, sell them that all the time. I tell them that all the time. So, again, you’ve had so many stories that you’ve listened to. And again, a lot of people are coming over here for a variety of reasons, but have some of the, you know, has there been any regret in the immigrants that have come to the United States?
HC: So no one has said that they regretted coming. And I have had two guests. They lived here for a few years and then they moved out. So one moved to Guam. And then the other one actually moved back home to Turkey. But none of them have said that they regretted they really, you know, appreciate and enjoy their time here. Again, some of them came as kids. So like they don’t know another country. And some have just said that like, because I have asked if they would move back home if they had the chance. And they’ve said no, just because it would be adapting, again, adapting back, right. And then once you’re accustomed to living here, you realize, like, there’s a lot of things that are efficient here. And there’s a lot of things, you know, that work well, that may not work back in their home country. So it’s just like, trying to live without that it would be just hard just because you know, you’re used to it. So I haven’t had anybody regret yet? I don’t know, I don’t know, maybe in the future I might have. But those are the typical answers. It’s just like, it’s, it would be hard to move back. And, and I’ve had two that have moved out of the United States.
TJ: Interesting. Know what I’m gonna piggyback off of that question. You’ve had a variety of guests, right? So one of the things that can help reduce the time it takes to kind of get acclimated to the US, is there adaptability? What steps or what, you know, characteristics or whatnot, have they gone through? To reduce that time? What did that what was their process and how they chose to adapt? That you saw kind of like as a common theme,
HC: As a common theme? I will normally ask them just like, what was the hardest about adapting here normally is the language barrier, what it is. So once they they get that down? I guess it’s just easier to navigate. Because you can ask, you know, people for questions, find your people, and things like that. But what I have found that what has kept him here is just the opportunities that are available here that are not available in other countries. So yeah, so once they get that language barrier down, as much as they can, because you know, more more people struggle than others. Sure, English is not an easy language to learn Skye, and I know English, and sometimes I’m just like, this is hard, like, yeah, no, it’s true.
TJ: It’s true. Yeah,
HC: sure. Once Yeah, once they get that language down, it’s just easier to navigate around, ask in and find your people find your your community, right. I feel like once you have that, because we’re made for community. So no matter where we are, once we have that community, you you feel home, right, like so this will be your new home, and you just have that that ability here, so probably find the language barrier and then finding that community.
TJ: Yeah. Okay. Okay, that makes sense. That makes sense. So you’ve covered a variety of stories, right? So what story or stories have impacted you the most. So
HC: I cried LIS, listening to the story, which the episode is actually going to be published soon. It is a DACA recipient. So for those who don’t know, DACA recipients are the dreamers are the kids who came when they were younger, they’ve only lived here. And so they have a temporary status. And it’s been, I think, is going on to 12 years now. So they have to keep renewing their status every two years. They pay a fee, and they’re able to get a temporary social security card, they’re able to get a temporary driver’s license, and things like that, but all that is temporary. And her story, legit made me cry, because I was just obviously putting myself in her shoes. Just how living here with that status is very uncertain, right? Like, you know, so she told me, you know, when people say like, Oh, what are your five year goal in your five year plan? And she’s like, I can’t I legit have to go every two years to your goal to your plan to your goal to your plan. She was like I can’t, you know, think that far ahead. And then she was just telling me how like, with her family education was so important. And you know, she knew when she graduated high school that she was going to go to college. However, with this temporary status, like they have to pay out of state tuition. So they end up paying more, they don’t qualify for, you know, any financial, government financial assistance. So for her to get her four year degree. So carabao, six to seven years because she was paying out of pocket and so she could only take the classes that she could afford. And so but what I loved about it was like she didn’t give up because if anybody I Alice could have seen all those roadblocks and those challenges and was like, Oh, is it really worth it? You know, and not get that degree. And so like, I tried to spin a positive to her, and I was like, well think about it, you’re debt free. You graduated, you paid everything. You don’t have, you know, the burden of the student loans that the majority of us Americans have. Yeah, that’s true. I’m one of them. So I’m like, you know, she was like, yeah, that’s, that’s true. But we’re really hit home was also like, with her talking about the fee that they have to pay each time that they renew. It’s about I can’t remember the exact number, but it’s a few $100. And it wasn’t until that moment that we were recording that she was like, I never actually thought about how much I’ve actually paid on just renewing the status old every two years. And it’s like that money could have been used, you know, to buy a down payment for a home for her education, just you know, something else than this, you know, temporary status. And, you know, she got emotional, I got emotional and it just was just like, man, like, we need to find a solution. And I know I said the politics are not was isn’t a part of it. But it’s just like, it’s a lot of people who are living like this, who are just living, like pretty much in limbo don’t have a permanent status or anything. So it’s just like, a just a guy heavy in in again, emotional. So that one was really, really impacted me.
TJ: Yeah, I could definitely see that. And I’m not trying to get into the politics either. But yet, we really do need to work on enough solution for everyone to, you know,
HC: yeah. Yeah.
TJ: Way to figure this out. So everyone involved because yes, it’s, to me, it’s, it’s been ignored for way too long. And there really does need to be a permanent solution. And not just for the folks that are closest to being able to migrate here. But for everyone just have a decent system. Yeah, for everyone to have the opportunity to get, you know, to have that opportunity at the shot of the American dream if they want to have you know, so I get where you’re coming from on that. Yeah. All right. So we are in 2023, which still feel so weird to say, I mean, we’re almost halfway through the year. I feel like we would just say like Happy New Year, and now we’re like, almost in July.
TJ: So if you had to choose one word, to represent your year, this year 2023. What would it be and why?
HC: So every year I pray for my word of the year, and this year, God gave me discipline. And there was, you know, very specific areas in my life, where I was going to be disciplined with like, working out my finances and things like that. And definitely be consistent in discipline with my podcasts. Um, however, I feel like, it’s kind of shift a little bit to expand my reach. Because that’s really this year, I’ve really been focusing on on the podcast and expanding my reach. So when I said like, just thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about this. Because you know, there’s a lot of people who could be like, add on, like your topic, or whatever the case may be. So I’m definitely expanding my reach I, I am going to include a YouTube channel with the podcast and in addition to the audio, so that’s really, really exciting. And so yeah, I guess two words. I’m sorry, this complaining.
TJ: All right. I’m not gonna hold it against you. You can have more than one word. That’s all right. Well, we’ll let you slide. No worries. But yeah, I wish you nothing but the best on that because I think I think your topic is ripe for a YouTube channel. I think that’d be amazing. It’s like, listening to the podcast, you can hear the imagery, like I I’m one of those people, I can kind of like picture that. Yes. I love podcasts. So yeah, your topic is ripe for that.
HC: If you ask me, thanks to it to to like to actually see the person who’s talking and everything because I’m like you I’m, I’m a very I can do the pictures and everything. But now with the video. It’s like, you know, seeing the person, right? Yes, yes, yes.
TJ: Which is what I’m trying to do a little bit more of this latter part of the year. I got a lot going on, but this latter part of the year for the podcasts. For the hustle of faith podcast. I wanted to start having a little bit more interviews via video. So I Yeah, so you’re one of my first book. Yes. So thank you for that. Yes, you are. Yes. You are my first guest that I’m doing this with so I am a very appreciative of that. So yeah,
HC: yeah, so we’re in the same boat, so I know exactly. I know exactly how you feel. Yes,
TJ: exactly. Exactly. So last but not least, So what’s the best piece of advice you have for immigrants that are arriving in the United States?
HC: I would have to say, trust God, you know, trust, trust the process, trust, trust, really much trust, because there’s a reason why they’re here. There is a reason why they came. And it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But I do feel like, you know, they’ll be able to make it, they’ll be able to make a and so just trust God, and trust the process. And we’re here for you, you know, with with this podcast, I do try to, you know, encourage people, like if they do see someone, you know, who may need help, or may need, like resources or anything like, you know, extend that that hand, a helping hand. It’s not easy coming to a new country and not know people know the language, and things like that. So I always try to find opportunities to do that. To see like, well, who can I help? How can I help? And just, you know, be the hands and feet of Jesus.
TJ: That’s awesome. That’s awesome, Heidi. So if folks wanted to get in touch with you, how can they go about doing so?
HC: So I hang out on Instagram. My Instagram handle is actually my name. So H E ID why period d l a car uz 13. So Heidi, that Dela Cruz 13. And you can find out information about my podcast there. Everything actually, my website, my my book, everything is on on the Instagram. And then also you can listen to my podcast. Really, wherever you listen to podcasts. I just recently found out that it was on Audible. I had no idea. Oh, yeah,
TJ: yeah, yeah. Yeah. I don’t know how that happened. Yet. To be quite honest. I feel like a whole audible thing came out of nowhere. Yeah, same thing with me. I did not realize that. I was like, Oh, yeah. Why, right?
HC: Yes. I was actually Googling, Googling my podcast to see what would come up. Yeah. And yeah, it was like listening on Audible. I was like, Oh, that’s so cool. So I actually searched that. And yeah, there it is. So wherever you listen to podcasts, the American dream in the eyes of immigrants as they are. So you know, Google, Apple, Spotify, audible. Amazon music is on there, too. So cool thing if you have an Alexa, you can actually say, Alexa play, and then the title and it will play too. I was blown mind blown with that match?
TJ: Yes, yes. It is amazing how much. You know, the whole podcasting industry has grown, but just the ability to be able to listen to the podcasts on all these different platforms is also lets me know. Okay, so there is more than just Apple podcasts. Just like the main three you always hear about, but then you’re like, what are these other people in life? But that’s good. Yeah. Excited about that. So yeah. Well, Heidi, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I really, really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
HC: No, it’s been a pleasure being on here. Thank you, once again, for letting me share it on my podcast and for having me be your first guest as a video.
TJ: Yes, it is true. It is true. So thank you so much for that. Thank you. For more of our conversation, stick around for behind the scenes. And then I’m currently doing the writing for your life. So I’m in the middle. I haven’t announced this yet. But I’m actually in the middle of writing a book. And so it’s, yeah, so I’ve already in fact, in the next two or three weeks, I’m doing something a little different. So I’m gonna actually read some of the book that I’ve already started, like, I’m still writing literally. So it’s how to live an extraordinary life with or without Mr. Right. Christian, Christian women Woman’s Guide to survive and thrive on single avenue.
HC: I love that.
HC: I literally for my newsletter, is that yes. This week, I literally wrote about how not everyone is called to be married.
TJ: And I’m open to it. It’s just I’m not one of those people. That’s like, Oh, my goodness, because I My birthday is next month I’m turning 41 single, no kids. I’m out here living my best life. It’s like some people are like, wait, what’s wrong? And it’s like, yeah, there’s nothing like, okay. They put on their little Sherlock Holmes hat and they’re trying to figure out what’s going wrong. Like what’s wrong with you? You seem like you are right. And it’s like, cuz I am yeah, it’s it’s just I mean, so that yet so that’s the purpose of the book and I mean, it’s gonna have humor and all that stuff and of course.
HC: You know, I love that because the the church you know as being Christian like the church really pushes that like, yes married kids, you know like, but it’s like that’s not the end all be all.
TJ: Not the ultimate prize.
HC: yes I love it. Yes I love this. You are you I’m cheering you on I know the whole the whole process of the whole book writing thing and putting it together so like that’s a whole process in itself. So super excited.
TJ: And thanks again. I really really appreciate it.
What inspired you to start this podcast? 0:15
The American Dream in the eyes of immigrants. 3:48
What is your definition of the American dream? 8:26
Lack of community and adapting. 13:02
The importance of having a permanent status. 18:23
Best piece of advice for immigrants. 23:36
How to get in touch with Heidi. 26:10
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