We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofSandya Rai

Family is very important to me. When I left Nepal, I never thought that my family would be separated in America. I was just a little girl and was happy to start a new life in America. I assumed my whole family  would stay together and we would be happy, but that did not happen.  I arrived in Fargo, North Dakota when I was twelve years old. I came with my two older brothers, dad, mom, and little sister. We all lived in the same three-bedroom apartment together. No one in my family spoke any English. The social workers and some Nepali people in our apartment helped us understand our new home and the culture.  Since my older brother was already twenty years old when we arrived in America, he didn’t think he could go to high school. He was happy to hear that he could start school and go until the age of twenty-one. Since he spoke no English at all, and he was older, he really struggled. Sadly, he got very frustrated and dropped out of high school. He then got a job at a hotel and  gave all the money he earned to my parents, so they could pay the bills.  My dad worked at a factory but did not make much money. My mom was not able to work because she had an accident in Bhutan, her native country, when she was little. Her back was affected, and at one point she could barely walk. She had surgery when we arrived in Fargo. After surgery, she was not able to work. Our bills started to add up, and it was hard for my brother and dad to pay them. We also had to rely on neighbors and friends to take us anywhere since we didn’t have a car. When we did get a car, my parents did not have enough money to pay the insurance, so they still could not drive it.  Things got worse when my brother decided to move to Ohio. He wanted to be near my uncle and get away from the cold weather in Fargo. I remember the day he left us. He packed his bag, and then he stood by the door, waiting for his friends to pick him up. In our family, we don’t share our feelings with each other ever. I wanted to tell him not to leave, but I didn’t want him to think that I was trying to control him. I wanted to tell him how sad I was and that our family would have a hard time without him helping with the bills. I wanted to tell him that I loved him and would miss him so much it would hurt. However, I didn’t say anything to him. I didn’t even let him see me cry.  After my brother left, I felt sad that he was not with us anymore. I cried often, and my eyes always felt dry. We were not able to have dinner at the same table or go walking together. My family eventually had to move to a different apartment because we couldn’t pay the bills without my brother’s help. It was hard to move again.  At that time, more responsibility fell on me. I had to take my parents to the hospital because they did not speak English. I could only speak a little English, but still, I tried my best to help them. I was learning English from this experience and it ended up building my self-confidence.  When I came to America, I was happy but later when my brother left us, I felt so lonely. I felt afraid too. Sometimes when I think about it, it makes me angry because I wanted us to stay together. I did not ever think that I would have to live without my brother, but I am. 

© Sandya Rai. 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.