Insights > Mi Historia: Jennifer Mandes on the importance of faith and family
Mi Historia: Jennifer Mandes on the importance of faith and family
Jennifer Mandes shares how faith and family helps her navigate life
I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I lived there with my mom, dad, sisters, and entire family until I was 18 years old. From a young age, I always knew I wanted to study engineering and pursue my college studies in the United States. When I turned 18 and graduated high school, my family and I knew it was time for me to pursue my dream and attend the University of Florida in Gainesville. I went from chasing iguanas in my grandmother’s backyard to learning to yield to alligators when crossing the street.
Sports have always been a passion of mine, especially volleyball. So, when I was granted the opportunity to walk on the volleyball team at the University of Florida, a Division 1 sports team, I was elated. Our volleyball team went on to win four SEC championships and play for two Division 1 NCAA championships.
The first few months at the new school, town, and country was tough. Adjusting to a new culture and environment that was completely different than the one I grew up in was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do, especially because I had to learn a new language in the process.
Being away from my family who had always been my support system was new. Thankfully, I have always enjoyed making friends and getting to know people. I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and dive into the new team, the new school, the new language, and my new life.
I have always been a woman of faith and it is a value my family instilled in me since I was very young. I held on to it during those first couple months and was able to adjust and thrive. I am happy to say that those college years were some of the happiest memories. I made lifelong friends from diverse backgrounds and was able to experience the world outside my 100 x 35-mile island with my family’s love and support.
After graduation, I was offered a job opportunity and moved to south Florida where I lived for the past 15 years. Those 15 years were full of great memories, friendships, challenges, and a few bumps along the road, but I’ve always been able to call south Florida home.
During that time, one of my sisters married and moved to Texas. I was considering a move from Florida to Texas so I could be close to my sister and her kids. Last year, my mom was diagnosed with a condition that required her to get a lung transplant and ultimately move to Texas. To me, the move was a no brainer. Thankfully, I was able to get an opportunity working with Entergy and move to the Houston area shortly after. I have been here for one year and during the entire process, I met my husband.
Although I do miss my friends in Florida, I consider myself blessed because the move has provided a career opportunity and allowed me to be close to my family. I’m able to cherish all the moments I didn’t have with them while we lived in separate countries.