The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin
There has been a significant shift in the racial composition of the United States in recent decades, and several trends such as the increase in multiracial families will keep driving this change.
Definitions are also constantly evolving. Beatrice Gwena, who originates from Cameroon and migrated to the US as a Fulbright scholar, says “the native [white] American is fast becoming the minority”. That’s one reason why she feels no inhibitions integrating or mixing freely in her new environment.
“It is easy for migrants to integrate if they have the right information and can interact with the right people,” she adds.
Like Gwena, many migrants experience a sharp drop in status, finding that their professional qualification do not translate in their new home. But this did not affect Gwena’s ability to fully integrate into the professional workforce, she relates, describing one eye-opening experience when she experienced what she calls “brain waste” after completing a doctorate in national resources science and management in 2007.
For two years after she could not find a job, but being the person she is, a self-described overachiever and very hard working, she did not rest on her laurels, opting to return to college for a degree in healthcare, a field in which she says “jobs are readily available”.
Within six months of graduating, Gwena says she received multiple offers, and she now works as a nurse in a major hospital in Maryland.
Several factors hinder the economic integration of skilled migrants, but in spite of the fact that her current role does not relate with her initial field of study, Gwena believes her experience proves that adapting to the situation is the best choice for immigrants.
“There are cultural setbacks, but one can achieve goals if they’re hardworking,” she says.
For many migrants, participation in the labour market is a critical indicator of their successful settlement and integration in their new home, but often competing with other skilled workers is an impediment. Their aspirations are often frustrated by numerous factors, but Gwena advises that fellow migrants “should study their environment well to know how to navigate around so they don’t get frustrated by the system”.
At 51 and settled with her children, Gwena regards the US as home, but retains family ties with Cameroon. “There are very little and trivial things I don’t like about the US [but] for most part, I like it here,” she says. “My children are all here and have more opportunities than back home. As US citizens, this is our home, but we will visit Cameroon as often as possible.”
Experiences for migrants are often a case of different strokes for different folks, but things for Beatrice Gwena are panning out just the way she wants them.
“The US has a very friendly atmosphere to live in,” she says, “and you can become what you want if you set your mind to it.”
- If you’re an immigrant anywhere in the world and have a story to share, whether on our own behalf or on behalf of someone else, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Princess Pamela Toyin is a journalist and author with over 25 years’ experience in various roles, including as an executive PA to company directors, as a public relations executive, reporter, editor and publisher, research consultant and workshop facilitator.