Tales of a Displaced Youth: Leyla

With extraordinary resilience, Leyla and her husband, Nelson, brave the adversities of immigration—and discover their inner strength during the worst of times

Leyla Ventura and her long-time boyfriend, Nelson, were both very close to their families and moving abroad was not in their plans. Nelson was set to continue working at his father’s business and Leyla (whose parents were older) wanted to stay close to home to better take care of them, especially after her dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

However, these are the Tales of a Displaced Youth and uncertainty is always present. When the inflation rate in Venezuela skyrocketed and his beloved twin left the country, Nelson decided to do the same while Leyla finished med school. Nelson moved to Honduras, where Leyla’s family was from and where he had a job offer from one of her cousins. 

He began to thrive, and Leyla expected to have a smooth immigration process after she got her citizenship. With her graduation done (and after experiencing firsthand the deterioration of the local healthcare system), Leyla left for Honduras in mid-2018. In her suitcase she carried lots of anxiety, leaving only months after her mom recovered from a heart attack.

Things were far from easy, though: validating her Venezuelan diploma was problematic. She and Nelson lived in a small room within the factory where he worked. They barely had any space and, at night, they could hear rats running on the factory’s ceiling, a sound in Leyla’s nightmares to this day.

Six months later they took a trip back to Venezuela where, in the presence of their closest relatives and friends, they got married. Thankfully, when Leyla went back to Honduras, she found a job at a Venezuelan restaurant after sending her resume to dozens of places for months. It wasn’t a good experience, because her boss treated her terribly, and the hours were simply exploitative. 

The couple realized they’d have to emigrate again which, for Nelson, would mean starting over.

Then one of her cousins offered her a position as a teacher at her school. Leyla learned that the validation of her degree in this country was unlikely, and the couple realized they’d have to emigrate again which, for Nelson, would mean starting over. They decided on Chile, where some of Nelson’s cousins had moved to and where some of Leyla’s friends from med school were already working.

Their departure for Chile was anything but smooth. Just as they were about to leave Honduras, it was established that Venezuelans would need visas to enter Chile. After stressful days and countless errands, they were able to get their visas. However, once they arrived in Chile, Nelson found himself going to countless interviews with no positive results. They found a job at a store, but despite the fact that Nelson was the top salesman, they wouldn’t offer him a contract and they both remained underpaid. 

Things seemed to take a turn for the better when Nelson found a great job in his area. Leyla was studying very hard as the first and most important test was infamously difficult and expensive. And weeks before she was scheduled to take it, Leyla got the worst phone call an immigrant can receive.

Leyla’s father had passed away. Thanks to their families, she was able to go to Venezuela for the funeral and help her mom. They were both devastated, and Leyla considered if it was truly the right choice to go back to Chile instead of staying with her mom. However, her mom reminded her of how hard she had been working and urged her to leave.

Heartbroken and unconvinced, Leyla arrived in Chile three days before her test, and left the center where the exam took place without a clue about how she’d done.

With the support of her husband and her loved ones, Leyla has been able to mourn her father and, good news, she passed the test. This allows her to work as a doctor under certain restrictions while she takes the practical tests. Right now, she’s with a domiciliary service, caring for patients from all backgrounds, including those with COVID-19 symptoms that require hospitalization.

Leyla is focused on excelling at the practical tests and finding a job at a medical center. She hopes to bring her mom to Chile soon, but Leyla and Nelson’s dream is going back to Venezuela, where they feel their true home is. 

Hopefully, one day they will.