Many living in America do not know the pain and heartbreak that comes with having to escape their country of origin because of political persecution. However, there are many refugees across the nation that went through this turmoil seeking safety. On our campus, junior Victor Guillen lives everyday with the knowledge that he was able to escape his country of origin to attend Eastern.
Born in Venezuela’s capital city, Caracas, Guillen started participating in protests against the government at an early age. Over 7% of the population has fled the country since 2014– Guillen was one of them. Many of the working class in Venezuela do not have access to affordable goods or medical supplies due to hyperinflation. Many of the protesters blame the socialist government that has been in power for the past 19 years. Amid this persecution, Guillen fled from his country seeking affordable education after the government became aware of his participation in the protests.
Guillen first fled to Argentina, south from his country. He then backpacked from there to Mexico and flew from Mexico to Miami. His original intent was to backpack from Miami to Canada, but Pennsylvania managed to keep him. Going through Pennsylvania, Guillen used a couchsurfing site to stay in welcoming strangers’ homes during the night after backpacking all day. He came across a gentleman that, strangely enough, knew a family friend of Guillen. This sparked a conversation between Guillen and that family friend. Guillen was encouraged to apply to Eastern University because they tend to give scholarships to foreign exchange students.
Guillen was accepted to Eastern and is now a double major in Music and Political Science. He also minors in Public Policy.
“I want to be able to go back [to Venezuela] and help fix the government,” Guillen said.
Guillen is hopeful that with his education, he will be able to start accumulating funds to start a movement to better his country of origin.
Coming to Eastern was not an easy adventure. On top of backpacking here, Guillen had to learn English– making him trilingual (adding to his ability to fluently speak Spanish and Portuguese). Having to keep up with his fast-paced academic classes, Guillen also was teaching himself the English language. In addition to participating in Eastern through academics, he is also a student worker, paying for portions of his tuition out of pocket. Also, Guillen is active in the Jazz Band playing piano. He also serves in Political Activism Club and helped organize last year’s transparency stand. Additionally, Guillen participates in activities that are for foreign exchange students.
On top of this, Guillen serves as a Resident Assistant in Eagle Hall. There, he brings his unique perspective of the world to better engage with his staff and residents.
Guillen’s ability to escape a tumultuous political system and still be able to succeed at Eastern and make a positive influence is admirable and shows tremendous courage.