Skip To Content

    15 Important Pieces Of Advice People Learned From Their Immigrant Parents

    "We’re all humans at the end of the day. We’re all family."

    We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community for the important advice their immigrant parents gave them. Here are some of their responses.

    1. No dream is too big.

    "My parents came to America from Bangladesh over 20 years ago. My mom got married quite young (22) and her mother even younger (13). At the time, they didn’t have the free will to choose their own path, due to their culture (not religion). They never fully finished their education because of it. My mom raised me to pursue an education and career that would allow me to become an independent woman, which is the main reason she left Bangladesh. She knew that her children would be subjected to the same life she had if she stayed.

    "Growing up, she always told me that no dream was too big to dream. She always inspired me to become a person that wouldn’t need to rely on others. Based on her own experience, she knew that she wanted me to be able to live a life that I chose for myself. It’s because of her that I’m about to graduate as a biomedical engineer from the best program in the country. If it weren’t for her immigrant story, I wouldn’t have been inspired to go this far."

    Submitted by anikaanakinr.

    2. Stand your ground.

    "My parents came from Indonesia with my oldest sister in the '70s. While I was in elementary school a few kids would call me an immigrant. I told my dad about it and he said, 'That is what I am, but you are an American.' When I explained that to the bullies, that didn’t stop them. Again I shared this with my dad and this time he said, 'Now is the time for action.' He put Enter the Dragon in the VCR and said, 'If they think this is what you are, shouldn’t they be afraid of you?' The following day at recess the bullies came again and this time I stood my ground and took a fighting stance. They ran and never bothered me again. Prior to that I always tried to fit in or not make waves."

    Submitted by barigatorpilot.

    3. Stay humble.

    "My parents were Vietnamese refugees who escaped during the war. Of all the life lessons I got from them as I was growing up, I think this one resonated with me the most. I was really excited when I learned I was the only one in my fourth-grade class to get 100% on a test, so naturally I told them I must’ve been the best student there. Their response: 'Stay humble, because no matter how good you think you are at something, there’s always someone out there that’s better. And though they’re better than you at one thing, you may be better at something else. It’s not a contest to see who’s the best – what’s important is what you can learn from one another.'"

    Submitted by d448ccaf2c.

    4. Nothing is given to you.

    5. Make the most of what life has to offer.

    "My mother taught me to enjoy life and everything it offers before settling down. Forced into an arranged marriage at 20, then fleeing a war-torn country with a newborn and finding refuge in Canada, she had so many choices taken from her. I have the freedom to live how I want because she didn’t get that freedom."

    Submitted by lavinar.

    6. Help those who need it.

    "My dad left El Salvador because of the war and was homeless when he came to the US. He first lived with friends and travelled for hours and hours, and ended up living in his car at one point. Fast-forward to when he met my mom and had my sister – he would take in strangers who went through the same thing. He told me one day he was bringing my sister and brother (I wasn’t born yet) to eat and saw an Ecuadorian man asking for money. He learned his story and told him to get in the car and live with him.

    "My dad taught me to be humble and to always help anyone who needs it, because you don’t know what they went through. Over the years we had family and friends and people we didn’t even know come live with us after coming from another country. We’re all humans at the end of the day. We’re all family."

    Submitted by dria03.

    7. Hard work is an invaluable skill.

    "My parents both came to Pakistan alone. They moved to a small town with two children and no money. They worked hard and lived simply. They never take anything they have now for granted. They always remind me that you don’t know what life will bring and that hard work is the best skill to aid you in life, whether it’s in your social life or with education."

    Submitted by zohaq.

    8. Be self-reliant and independent.

    9. Treat others with compassion.

    "My father is from a Ukrainian immigrant family who came to the UK after the second world war. My grandparents survived Nazi slave labour and were classified as ‘sub-human’ because of their ethnicity. The most important thing I have learned from my parents and from my grandparents is how important it is to be kind and to treat others with compassion. You can never know about a person's life just from meeting them. The golden rule is always treat others how you want to be treated – with kindness."

    Submitted by elenaliber17.

    10. You can be from your country of birth and from where you made your home.

    "My mama is Colombian, but has lived in the US for ages. She taught me you can be both from your country of birth and from the country where you made your home. No one can make you pick between the two.

    "She also taught me that loving a place doesn’t mean you can never leave it. She left home at 17 and never made me feel guilty for having the same will to wander the world."

    Submitted by alexandraadlerm.

    11. Appreciate what you have, and prove the doubters wrong.

    "My mom never let my siblings and I blame the world for our problems – she would always make sure we appreciated what we had by working hard and sacrificing to get there. She taught me that no matter how hard I work to accomplish something, there will always be people who, when they look at me, will only ever see another coloured girl. But it was up to me to make sure to prove them wrong every time."

    Submitted by genntouv89.

    12. You're allowed to decide how people treat you.

    "My mom moved me halfway across the world to England from Africa so that I could have a better education. So that I wouldn’t be judged by the colour of my skin or my name. Somewhere I could be free from the past that haunts my motherland. She left everyone behind, my father, her mother, her career. For months she worked nights in a supermarket while during the day she worked getting English qualifications.

    "She taught me the importance of standing up for yourself – you are allowed to decide how people treat you. You are allowed to decide the line that goes from funny to racist. She also taught me the strength that comes from being an African woman. Home is inside and it doesn’t matter how far you travel, my mother will always be African – I will always be African."

    Submitted by poisonedheart.

    13. Persevere through adversity.

    14. Persist, always.

    "My parents decided when I was 2 that in order to put family first, we needed to come to live, learn, and work in the land of opportunity. My dad and I immigrated from the Dominican Republic before my mom, who was pregnant with my little brother. Being away from my mom was so traumatic that many of my first memories are 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old me feeling like I was being abandoned, and I became extremely frightened and dependent on my dad’s presence.

    "My mom was severely depressed during and after her pregnancy with my brother. The separation wasn’t as long as what other immigrant families face, but it managed to scar us. My parents' persistence in putting our family back together and keeping one another in first place through hard times has taught me the greatest lessons I’ve learned. Family first, and persistence always."

    Submitted by meraryg2.

    15. Empower yourself to change history.

    "My dad moved to this country at 16, alone and with pennies in his pocket. It took him 10 years, but he put himself through college and grad school. He came from Iran, having just seen his country torn up in the Revolution. He is a scientist that specialises in mental health, working for nearly 20 years on studying how to cure Alzheimer’s. He is currently in Saudi Arabia establishing a medical facility that will provide healthcare to those overseas.

    "Upon hearing about the [US] travel ban he told me this: 'I think for younger generation such as you the best course is to redirect your path in life and empower yourself to be able to change the course of the history.

    "'I am very proud of you for the way you think, for your passion and gutsiness. Now if you empower yourself you could be even more effective. Think rationally not emotionally, as it is the best way to beat ignorance and injustice stemming from hate.'

    "My mother is a preschool teacher who fled Iran at 20 to study computer science at a small school in Minnesota. She teaches her kids every day that kindness and patience is what leads to creating a better world.

    "And my grandmother is 72 – she works from 4am to 1pm every day in the stockrooms of Macy’s, supporting my sister and I as we are first-generation and the first women in our families to attend college."

    Submitted by natashak44e62077a.

    Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

    Want to be featured in more posts like this? Follow the BuzzFeed Community on Facebook and Twitter!