Leaning over his laptop, Jorge Davalos, 26, sits at a table inside a tiny Mexican cafe while Spanish pop music plays loudly in the background. Just a couple of blocks from the Mexican Consulate, this is the first place Davalos found in Chicago that makes him feel at home.
Davalos is a recent immigrant from Aguas Calientes, Mexico, and the keyboard heâ€™s typing on is in Spanish. As he browses through his pictures, he comes upon shots of himself in Shanghai and in front of the Great Wall.
What brought this Mexican college student to China?
Before coming to America, Davalos was a buyer for a global contract manufacturing company called Flextronics. Shortly after graduating college and working at Flextronics, he was chosen out of 1,000 people by the Mexican government to travel to Shanghai and spend a year developing business with the Chinese.
His job, he says, was to manage international relationships and â€œsell Mexico to bring in investments [that would create] employment for the people.â€ He did this by working closely with Chinese businessmen and learning about their culture.
â€œWhen you give business cards,â€ says Davalos, â€œthere has to be something red on them, because that means luck.â€
He found the Chinese, like Mexicans, to be a very generous culture, and often had to find ways to turn down their more ethnic offers, like dinners of eel and tarantula. He could only stave off the gifts for so long, however.
â€œI tried dog,â€ he laughs. Â â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€
Before Davalos went to China, the internship program provided him with educational software so he could learn about global cultural variation. By studying powerpoints, he memorized the cultural classifications of both Latin America and Western culture, as well as learned some Chinese.
The software asserted that there are three kinds of culturesâ€”Linear Active, Multi-Active, and Reactive. After using the software, Davalos shared that the main difference between Latin Americans, who are Multi-Active and the Chinese is that Latinos tend to be more impulsive and direct while the Chinese are more distant and task-oriented.
With his knowledge and experience of Chinese culture, Davalos had hoped to stay in China after his year-long internship and continue his career in supply-chain management there. However, a turn in the economy prevented him from fulfilling his goal.
â€œThey told me they would have hired me but they werenâ€™t able to offer more employment,â€ he says.
When Davalos returned to Mexico, he found that the job opportunities were lacking and decided he needed to make a change. Since he was young, Davalos pictured himself living and working in America with his brother, so he moved to San Francisco where he spent several months taking ESL classes to improve his English. Luckily Davalos was able to attain his immigrant status and work permit without hardship because his father had worked here and gained amnesty in the 1980s.
It was also in San Francisco that Davalos began working with Upwardly Global, a non-profit organization that works to bring professional immigrant job-seekers together with employers.
After a quick trip back in Mexico, Davalos moved to Chicago in June 2009 where his sister had found him a place to stay. After a job lead didnâ€™t come through, Davalos began his job search and reconnected with Upwardly Global.
â€œI wasnâ€™t expecting to find an Upwardly Global office here,â€ he says. â€œAnd it was amazing that they were here since January.Â I thought well maybe I am here for something.â€
Although Upwardly Global has helped Davalos assimilate to American business culture through mock interviews, he is still encountering some difficulty in his job hunt.
AUDIO: Davalos shares some observations with Alex Hollander[audio:http://immigrantconnect.medill.northwestern.edu/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Hollander-Davalos-audio.mp3]
He has realized that he may need to go back to school to earn an American degree. He is considering graduate school and an MBA program, which he would ideally combine with an internship. If Davalos doesn’t find a job soon and canâ€™t afford more schooling, however, he plans to join the Air Force.Â He traveled so much in China , though, that he is ready to, and would prefer to, settle down in America, he says.
Although the initial stages of his life here have had its challenges, Davalos is determined to become a success in America, both professionally and personally.
â€œI am remaining here,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s a decision I already made. Life by itself is a learning process. You want to stay what you are, or add positive things from the other culture.â€