HOW A DRESS CHANGED MY LIFE – ADRIANA ARANGUIBEL

I enter the party hall; my eyes grow wide at the shine and glamorous decorations. I have a passport and a boarding pass in my hand. I am about to enter the great adventure of the night to start my journey through the world. Then I wake up. I realize it's all dream, a fantasy, a vision of where I would soon be.

I was a 14-year-old with a lifelong dream in the making. Ever since I was a little girl, I had wished to have the perfect quinceañera. The theme was to be a trip around the world, stopping at the different countries I had visited in my life. We had already rented out the party hall. I had the perfect salon. Now I just needed the perfect dress. So my mom and I went to America.

My mom and I came to the U.S. from my home country of Venezuela to buy a splendid blue dress, full of glitter and rhinestones for my quinceañera. But everything quickly changed. While on our trip, Venezuela's situation worsened. Two weeks after my arrival, my dad called to say we would not be returning to our home country. He told us to stop planning for my dream quinceañera because we had to prioritize our safety and remain in America.

I had to start school in a foreign place, surrounded by people who I did not know. Worst of all, I did not have the chance to say goodbye to my family and friends. I had to give up relationships and dreams; my once in a lifetime quinceañera would no longer be.

Those first six months were the darkest and most terrifying moments of my life. Separated from our family, my mother and I fought against the world to reunite with my father. We helped each other stay emotionally strong during the most traumatic event of our lives. Angry, depressed, and confused, I reflected on why destiny put me where I was. The first thought that came to my mind was that I did not have any choice.

As an immigrant, I did not know the native language well; many days, I doubted myself and did not feel strong enough to achieve my dreams. Then I looked at my parents working so hard, day and night, to create a place for us in America. They stayed strong, despite losing their careers, home, and family. What did I lose, tennis and a fanciful quinceañera? That is hardly enough to tip the balance scale of our losses. As I reflected on my life, I put it all into perspective and realized all my parents' sacrifices to give me a safe and better future. From that moment on, I decided not to give up, knowing all they had done for me.

My parents were my greatest support and motivation. Seeing their hard work inspired me to set difficult academic challenges for myself. Their love and work ethic gave me a higher sense of responsibility, maturity, and determination. As I worked hard, my path and purpose became

clear. I want to give back for all the help I have received in this great country that I now call my home.

Today, I have learned to appreciate the present; life itself is a gift. I have learned to set short terms goals that push me towards my more significant aims. I have learned to set my sights high.

When I look back, I realize a beautiful truth. I never did buy that blue quinceañera dress. Instead, I received a new dress, one that brought new beginnings, opportunities, and adventures. Now, as I look toward my bright future, I see so clearly. My past has taught me invaluable lessons, and now I have to share those lessons with others. I am here to motivate people; to be a part of a new and more fantastic version of the world.