Veronica Canadas's Journey to Earn a Master’s Degree

Accounting Major Didn't Let a Civil War and Language Barrier Stop Her

By Amanda Agatstein |   April 2009

Veronica Canadas , Alumnus

As a decade-long civil war raged around her, University of El Salvador student Veronica Canadas was forced to make a difficult choice. Veronica, a law school student at the time, recalls the devastating circumstances she faced in early 1980s El Salvador.

“During the war, university students were targets,” she says. “The government viewed universities as subversive elements conspiring against them, so they closed our university. We realized our future there would be very bleak without a formal education.”

Compounding that loss was the fear for her safety. Her father was a judge, thus a government appointee, which put his loved ones in danger. Compelled to find freedom and begin a new life, Veronica and her fiancé—who was attending engineering school—like many Salvadorians at the time, got married and moved to the U.S.

The transition was exhausting, and starting fresh in a new country meant overcoming countless obstacles.

“One of the most frustrating aspects of this transition was the inability to communicate in a very articulate way, which is reason enough for people to underestimate you and undervalue your talent, as you can’t show your full potential. Certainly, in my heart I had no doubt this was just a temporary hurdle that I was going to overcome,” says Veronica. “And finding the resources to continue our education, one of the main reasons for leaving our country, became secondary to sustaining our basic needs and working for a living.”

And of course, Veronica dearly missed her family. But through it all, she never doubted the choice she made.

“I can’t deny how very hard it was for us to leave our families, our dreams, and aspirations behind to come to a country where we didn’t know the language, customs, and the educational system,” says Veronica. “But I knew that coming to the U.S. was the right thing to do.”

Veronica's hopes that she could transfer her credits from the University of El Salvador were dashed—most of the country’s academic records were lost during the war. Determined, she didn’t let this devastating news bring her down.

In 1989, she began a new career in finance working for an international organization. Two years later, she enrolled in an undergraduate program at UMUC in Accounting and Technology Management. She studied while working full-time, and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1997.

Finally, after 15 years since she arrived in this country, her dream of earning a degree became reality. But this was not the end of Veronica’s educational journey.

“I realized that the job market was becoming increasingly competitive,” says Veronica. “So I decided to enroll in the Master of Science in Finance and Accounting degree program at UMUC, which would enhance my knowledge and give me an edge in my career.”

Veronica completed her master’s degree in May 2008. She feels that her UMUC master’s degree will be highly beneficial in her career advancement.

“I am very fortunate that I was proactive about my career and I have enhanced my skills,” she says. “I feel that I am very marketable now and that I can find a job without any problem.”

As Veronica plans for the future, which includes preparing for her Certified Public Accountant exam, she holds on to the memory of graduation day last May, when her family traveled many miles to celebrate her victory.

“My family from El Salvador came to share this special moment with me, as well as my daughter, who just finished her program in International Affairs at the Sorbonne in France,” says Veronica. “They were very proud. My nephews and niece told me I was a good role model. To hear that was rewarding and felt so good. I told them that they should never give up their dreams—because if they have the will, they will find the way to accomplish them.”