By Sonia Sroka
Senior Vice President, Director of Hispanic Marketing, Porter Novelli

I grew up in El Salvador, surrounded by so much love and support that the civil war raged in the mountains outside our home seemed much farther away than it actually was.

It all changed the year I turned 13. For my family our security was paramount, so when the war found its way to our neighborhood, we knew we had to leave.

In America, everything was different—the weather, the places, the people, the way of life. I had boarded the plane as a confident and ambitious teenager and quickly became just another Latina girl who couldn’t speak the language.

In Catholic school in El Salvador, I was expected to have big goals. In English language classes in California, it was just the opposite. Like so many others new to America, I was encouraged to blend in, not to stand out.

I also realized that in America, I would have to work harder for everything—to learn the language, culture, the way things were done here. I resented it at first but soon decided that the harder things got, the harder I would work. To me, that’s a realization that everyone must come to: Real and meaningful success is always the result of a battle hard won.

As a result, I learned to view challenges as opportunities. They may not be easy—they may even seem insurmountable—but sometimes the most difficult situations are actually gifts. It is through meeting unexpected challenges that we discover our inherent strengths and propel ourselves to new heights.

I doubt that it has been easy for any one of the millions of people who have come to America, but I truly believe that if you had the courage and strength to get here, you have the courage and strength to make it. For those who fear that it’s impossible, remember that we all face obstacles, no matter what our stories are. It’s important to look forward, to envision and work toward the future self you want to become. The American Dream is not something you trade your own dreams for—it is the life you find when you don’t give up on the dreams that brought you here.