Around the world and back again

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New York City’s diverse culture is its strength, but finding a job there can still be difficult

"Back home in Brazil, I never would have imagined that I would have friends from Poland, Austria, China, Mexico—all over the world,” said Juliana Almeida about New York City. “I started meeting people from everywhere.”

It was quite a change from her first home in the United States.

Originally from Maceió, Brazil, Juliana Almeida first came to the U.S. to be an au pair in the Virginia suburbs for one year. It was a great experience, but to the then 20-year-old Juliana, the family-filled neighborhoods were too quiet, too monotonous, and didn’t present much of an opportunity to meet new people.

Juliana decided she was ready for a change and in 2008, New York City became her new home. The move surprised her. Not only did she meet new friends, but she also met her future husband, a Native New Yorker.

After a year in New York, Juliana returned to Brazil to finish college. From there, her and her now-husband embarked on an adventurous extended trip that took them everywhere from Russia to Vietnam to Australia. Six years later, Juliana stopped traveling to put down roots in New York City once more.

“We knew that we’d eventually want to settle down,” said Juliana. “And when the time came, it was basically either Brazil or the U.S. We chose New York because there are more opportunities. It's a more exciting place.”

Reflecting upon her years of traveling, Juliana believes seeing the world helped shape her into the person she is today.

“It really opened my mind to different ways of living, and different cultures, and to how we are so similar in the end, despite all of our cultural differences.”

Her experience living in different communities makes New York one of her favorite cities. “It's the main example of a place that thrives because of diversity.”

Ready to start her new life, Juliana searched the New York Public Library website to look for classes she could take. It was there she discovered LEAD with New Women New Yorkers.

LEAD is a free eight-week program for female immigrants that has job-readiness workshops, information about the U.S. job search process, workplace culture, resume critiques and more.

“It's tailored for immigrants,” said Juliana. “We talk a lot about the U.S. workforce culture, and how to build a resume, job interview preparation, and networking. I felt it was a safe space to share experiences and meet new people that are going through the same exact thing as you.”

Juliana was particularly interested to learn about networking. She says that, in her experience, events purely meant to form professional connections do not really happen in most countries.

Following her own participation in LEAD, Juliana became a facilitator for the program, an achievement that made her feel accomplished.

“It's a great feeling to give back to the community, program, and organization,” said Juliana. “Something that was very surprising and rewarding was after I finished facilitating one of my first workshops, a lot of the participants came up to me and said, ‘I had no idea you graduated from the LEAD program. This is so inspiring. It's so good to see that one of us could advance’.”

Despite her own nerves about public speaking, Juliana has spoken at New Women New Yorkers events through their storytelling program, each crowd bigger than the last. It was quite a change from 2008, when she couldn't get through presenting a final project to a small class because she feared her English was not strong enough.

“I feel like I've definitely gained a lot of confidence. New Women New Yorkers has helped me with that. That's such a cool idea, too—telling your story, being heard. That's such a great way to build up confidence and share your voice.”

While Juliana enjoys her time as a LEAD facilitator, her goal is to become an elementary school teacher. “When the time is right, I want to become certified, to get my masters, and ultimately become an elementary school teacher here in the city,” said Juliana.

With New Women New Yorkers on her side, nothing is out of reach for Juliana to accomplish.

We’re proud to work with with New Women New Yorkers, giving them mentorship and financial resources in order to help develop their programs and hire more full-time workers. With Guardian’s support, New Women New Yorkers can help more women like Juliana in their pursuit of starting careers in America.

Disclaimer

This material contains the current opinions of Juliana Almeida but not necessarily those of Guardian or its subsidiaries and such opinions are subject to change without notice.