Photo: Michelle Saade

Tales of a Displaced Youth: Michelle

This is the first of a series of stories, gathered by Mila Rojas, about the new generation Venezuela is losing: young graduates who move abroad

Michelle Saade had a comfortable life in Venezuela. Despite the crisis, she was fortunate enough to live in a nice area of Caracas with her family. So why did she decide to leave the country?

In 2016, Michelle had been working as a dentist when she was unexpectedly laid off. Her boss decided to leave Venezuela for good, as many others before him had done. It was time to find a new job.

An opportunity at an outsourced customer service appeared and, as the company grew, it became her main job for the following two years. She earned around $400 a month, which was 33 times the minimum wage in Venezuela back then. Michelle was making a lot more than what she earned as a dentist.

Yet always with her trade in mind, Michelle took a course at the Central University of Venezuela, and that experience (in what used to be one of the most prestigious institutions in the country) led her to the fateful choice.

Because despite her excellent professors, basic dentistry tools (like suction hoses) didn’t work, and digital X-Rays, which are standard in any other part of the world, were unheard of. The overall environment wasn’t as aseptic as it should be, and it was the same at private institutions. Michelle also got warnings about safety on campus: the robberies and thefts were a daily issue.

Despite the crisis, she was fortunate enough to live in a nice area of Caracas with her family. So why did she decide to leave the country?

Michelle applied to a Pediatric Dentistry master’s degree at the Complutense University, in Spain, immediately selling her car and gathering her savings. Only her father and big sister were there to say goodbyeher mom and little sisters had left for the United States earlier that year. Michelle had everything perfectly scheduled to arrive on the first day of the program but things didn’t go as planned. Her flight got delayed… for 48 hours. 

The late arrival didn’t leave a good impression, but still, she was happy: she’d learn from the best and with all the modern tools, although she needed to validate her Venezuelan degree with the Spanish government, a three-year-long process that barred her from practicing meanwhile. Experienced in taking care of her little sisters, she started working as a nanny.

Finding a job wasn’t easy, yet her English skills broadened her opportunities because many parents wanted their kids to become familiar with the language early on. The first family Michelle worked for seemed nice, a situation that quickly changed as the three kids she cared for behaved terribly, constantly insulting her and making her feel unwanted. 

She couldn’t help but cry, hugely frustrated. She had to carefully save every euro to make ends meet, and had to  spend two hours on a bus every day to make it from her home to college, and to work.

Now, this is a person who always does her best to look at things on the bright side. She loves to travel and she has taken advantage of cheap travel opportunities in Europe. Also, she goes out with many of her oldest friends, as Madrid has become like a second Caracas to her. When they go out, she’s not afraid for her safety. 

Yet Michelle’s fate is uncertain. A government employee in Venezuela made a mistake with the legalization of her diploma and now her family has to go through a corrupt system to fix it. If things get delayed, she might have to continue working as a nanny, even after finishing her masters and officially turning into a pediatric dentist. It seems like you may leave Venezuela… but its problems won’t leave you.

At least she’s now working with two families with well-behaved kids that love her. Her dental practice might be on hold, but that’s still her dearest goal, and everyone who knows her is proud of her. 

I hope she’s proud of her, too.