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Graduate works hard to realize her dream in a new country

December 08, 2009

Growing up during the Communist era in Bulgaria, Desislava Todorova Rountree knew she wanted more out of life. Her dream was to come to the United States to study, but it seemed impossible, especially after the economic chaos that surrounded the fall of Communism.

She studied English in high school and college, and when the opportunity for a cultural exchange program in the U.S. opened up, she borrowed money for the trip and went to Montana for the summer to work at Glacier National Park. It was the start of an arduous journey, made possible by determination and hard work.

Seven years later she is graduating from the W.P. Carey School of Business with a degree in finance and a 4.0 GPA. Now 28, she has taken classes at night while working full time, first as a retail manager at EyeMasters and then as a personal banker at Wells Fargo.

Rountree met her future husband that summer in Montana, and came to America after they married a year later. Within a month she found a job, and six months later she started classes at Mesa Community College, struggling with culture changes and a second language. Most of her college credits from Bulgaria didn’t transfer.

“It was all a part of the cost to pursue my dream, and it was a cost I was willing to pay,” says Rountree. “I felt like I was offered a new life, a second chance, and I had to use it wisely. I also saw all the opportunities this country has to offer people who are willing to work hard and who are not afraid to accept challenges.”

Rountree had experienced poverty in post-Communist Bulgaria, as her parents – an engineer and a teacher – had their wages reduced to almost nothing. Once she was in the U.S., she got involved in charity drives and became active with her husband in the Tri-City Baptist Church.

Now she hopes to attend graduate school in economics and go to work for the World Bank.

“I’d like my work to mean something,” she says. “I feel fortunate that I’m here and have had the opportunities I’ve had. I’d like to be able to one day make a difference in people’s lives, in developing countries.”


Media contact:
Sarah Auffret
(480) 965-6991