We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofPaola Gomez

I can assure you that it is not easy to come to a new country where people do not speak your native language or practice your culture, beliefs, and customs. I was born and raised in Mexico. When I was 13 years old, I had to suddenly leave my native country, family and friends behind. When I was in Mexico, I was very talkative and outgoing with many friends. When I came here, I was not the same person anymore. I became introvert- ed. I felt like a different person.  A new beginning at the age of 13 is not easy. It was a big change. I thought that I would never be able to speak English and communicate with my friends and teachers. Living in a colder place was also a challenge. One day, when my family went outside of our house to go to the store, I noticed something I had never seen before. I saw snow and ice on the ground! It was a lot of snow. I was surprised because in Mexico, it never snows. I wasn’t sure if I liked the colder weather. When we entered the store, I saw a lot of new things. There was so much food in boxes and the store was huge. I was used to buying food in small outdoor markets. The food was always fresh. In the new store, foods were in boxes and packages, so it was not fresh. We picked out some food and we went up to the cashier. My dad needed to pay the bill, but the woman who was helping us didn’t understand what my dad wanted to say. I was scared and shy. I wanted to help my dad, but I couldn’t do it with my level of English. It was an awkward situation and the language struggle between my dad and the woman continued without my help. Finally, she went to find a person who could translate for us.  After a week in America, I started school. I had problems completing my homework and finding classes. It was difficult for me to make progress on my schoolwork. I was having trouble understanding what my teachers were saying to me. I felt confused in every class when teachers were explain- ing the assignments and projects. Because of the language difference, my scores on my schoolwork were lower than they had been in Mexico. I felt stuck. I felt lonely and devastated when no one was willing to talk to me. I also thought that I wouldn’t be able to make new friends in the United States.  Unexpectedly, after a week of school, something extraordinary happened in my life. A Somali girl came to talk to me. She was a friendly and delightful person. She helped me find my classes and helped me finish my assignments that were late. I wasn’t very talkative with her at first because I thought she would make fun of my English and my accent. As the days passed, I grew more confident. She was the only person at school whom I relied on or depended on to explain the assignments to me.  When I started my freshman year, I met so many new people from different countries. It has been fun to learn about their cultures and the religions they practice. Every school needs a class that has mentors working with their new American students. That class helped me so much and encouraged me to push myself to speak more with my peers. I am very pleased to have had teachers who helped students like me to improve our English and writing skills.  I now see my life in a different way, and I have begun to understand that everything has a meaning. I never thought that my life would change so quickly, but I am happy that it did. I finally feel like myself again. 

© Paola Gomez. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.