Immigrant Stories: Mariana Fierro Olivares

Published by Program Manager on

Immigrant Stories: Mariana Fierro Olivares

Mariana Fierro Olivares was born and spent much of her early life in Mexico City. She enjoyed living there, and recalls walking on the main avenue in the city, going to museums, movies, or shopping, as among the pleasures of life in the capital. However, concerned about the safety of life in Mexico, her family began to consider moving to the United States. When Mariana was a child, her family came to the States for the first time. At six years old, she started school in a bilingual class, where she learned a lot of “the basics.” The atmosphere was welcoming and her teacher was kind. But in second grade, bilingual classes were no longer offered. Everything was in English, it was much harder for her, and she found it harder to make friends. She would try to reach out to the students who knew even less English than she did, but it was a relief when her family returned to Mexico for several years, and it was sufficient to speak Spanish again.

Mariana has fond memories of living in Mexico City, including visiting Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul (left) and walking along the Paseo de la Reforma in the city center.

In 2015, Mariana’s family moved again to the United States, this time settling in Bryan, Texas. Mariana had already begun college in Mexico City, and wanted to finish her education. She eventually applied and was admitted as a transfer student to Texas A&M, where she majored in communications. Returning to a predominantly English-speaking educational environment was challenging, and in her first semester, she had some difficulties. But thanks to a very caring academic advisor, Mariana figured out what she needed to do to succeed at TAMU and graduated in August 2021. She also took classes in Spanish and very much enjoyed hearing the accent and vocabulary of an instructor from Spain. Since completing her degree, Mariana has been working remotely for a digital magazine published in Mexico City. She also enjoys spending time with her family, who include her parents and three brothers (one of whom lives and works in Mexico City), and dancing salsa at local clubs for fun. 

Mariana and her family love to travel, and she appreciates the familiar architecture of Guerrero, Mexico (left) as well as the chance to discover new parts of the U.S. (right).

Mariana was introduced to BIIN when her dad found out about the organization’s citizenship classes through an ad in the newspaper, in 2018. Her parents started taking citizenship classes with BIIN, and Mariana followed suit in 2019. Mariana recalls the relief they felt, when her family found BIIN. The process of seeking US citizenship through naturalization seemed so complicated. But when they walked through the doors of BIIN’s office, smiling, warm volunteer instructors met them. As Mariana put it, “You knew immediately that all of the staff was extremely supportive, kind, caring, and patient.”

At that time, Mariana was unaware that BIIN was offering English classes. But in late 2021, she felt like she needed to do something to strengthen her confidence in her ability to speak English, as the prospect of having casual conversations with native speakers was still intimidating to her. She started to look online for English classes in the Bryan/College Station area, and as soon as she saw BIIN on the list, she knew that she had found the solution! She joined BIIN’s online Conversational English classes in January 2022, starting in the Level 2B class taught by volunteer teachers Madeline Lai and Sara Ptomey.

One of Mariana’s favorite things about BIIN’s English classes are the icebreakers that the teachers – Madeline and Sara (pictured above) -- prepare to encourage students and volunteers to engage in casual conversation, at the start of each class.

Mariana really appreciates the fact that both of her English teachers in the spring 2022 term were so patient and friendly. Her goals are to be completely fluent in English and to feel confident enough to enter into conversations with native speakers, even when she doesn’t know them and is not sure of how they will respond when they hear an accent.

Mariana wishes that more people in the community knew about the valuable services that BIIN provides to people like her and her family, for whom feeling at home when speaking English can be hard, even after they have lived in the States for some time.  She is grateful to everyone, from BIIN volunteers and staff to the supportive faculty and staff she met at TAMU, for helping her feel welcome and comfortable. As Mariana put it, “I want to say thank you for all the people who volunteer at BIIN.  They are making a big difference in people’s lives!”  Thank you, Mariana, for sharing your story with us, and for making this community a more vibrant and welcoming place for all who live here.

Thanks to Akshay Peddireddy, spring 2022 Conversational English intern, for conducting an interview with Mariana that provided the basis of this profile.