“I lost sight of everything that was familiar to me. It was hard staying true to myself because I tried to fit in.”
Cypress Hills, NY
I came from the Dominican Republic when I was thirteen. I came to live with only my dad, my mom stayed in DR. I lost sight of everything that was familiar to me. I had to leave my friends behind, my mom behind, my whole life behind. The moving was brutal, but having my dad made it sort of easier. I moved during my teenage years so it was the time that I needed my mom the most. When it comes to school, I’m a year ahead. I came for my freshmen year in high school, but here I was supposed to be in 8th grade. My dad took me to the department of education with proof that I had finished eighth grade, but they still wouldn’t let me in 9th grade. My dad took me upstate to where my uncle lives and tried to enroll me in the school there, which worked, but the downside of it was that I had to live with my uncle and not with my dad. In the past,I only saw my uncle every couple of years. So I lost my mom, and then I lost my dad too. I lost sense of everything that was familiar to me. Moving was really difficult because you have to start trusting strangers. It feels like nothing really belongs to you because you don’t consider yourself an American yet. School was difficult because I barely spoke English and I was placed in all English classes without a translator. I wouldn’t understand what the teacher was telling the whole class. When I did the homework at home,I used a dictionary to translate everything including my answers. It was five hours of homework. It was hard staying true to myself because I tried to fit in. I tried to change the way I talked and the clothes I wore, but then Iater on, I realized that I had moved to a new place, but it wasn’t a new me.
“To be an immigrant, means to be someone creating a space for themselves within a community they were not born into.”
I grew up in India in the early 80s. I think my first recollection of the word ‘immigrant’ was hearing it used to describe the plight of a community called Kashmiri pandits who were forced to leave their homes and the state because of terrorist activities. As a child, the word had a negative connotation for me, it meant being in an artificial state, being helpless, alone, and scared. However, as I grew up, I learnt, immigration could also be a choice. A deliberate conscious decision to create a new life and start afresh. But for me the underlying tone is always that of an outsider. To be an immigrant, means to be someone creating a space for themselves within a community they were not born into. As the world grows more and more divisive, I feel, immigrant has turned into a term to differentiate between “us” and “them.” As is evident, I personally don’t care for the term, though I did choose to be an “immigrant” instead of being forced to be one, it still means being an outsider.
“Somehow I never feel like I fit in anywhere, and yet somehow I fit in everywhere.”
I’ve definitely always felt like an odd-ball. Somehow, I never feel like I fit in anywhere, and yet somehow I fit in everywhere. It’s hard to explain – I find that I can always find a way to relate to people on some level, but when it comes to groups of people, I’ve always felt that because of my different perspectives. I’ve always been a little different. In the U.S., I feel weird because of my Hungarian identity. In Hungary, I feel weird because of my American mentality. However,I do believe that being part of multiple cultures is super beneficial because your horizons are broadened. I wouldn’t trade being part of multiple cultures for anything because it’s become an integral part of who I am as a person and what I aspire to be. I think #dreamers are extremely hard workers and the requirements in order to become a dreamer are very strict. Therefore, I truly admire their strength and motivation to come to this country under those terms. I didn’t realize how unwelcome I truly was in this country until President Trump’s election. The fact that he’s president signifies that a majority of the country thinks that immigrants are a detriment rather than a benefit to this country. Immigrants are the base ground for the economy. Immigrants don’t ‘steal’ jobs, they do the jobs that others don’t want to do. If they move up in the socio-economic world, then that’s because they worked hard and they deserve it – just like everyone else. The United States is quite literally built on immigration; it’s a melting pot of cultures. These policies that are restricting people with citizenships and green cards from entering the country, as well as immigrants who are a huge percentage of our labor force – are stripping away America’s identity. The United States was always considered as the land of opportunity, and for the past year and a half (since Trump announced his candidacy), the U.S. has been the biggest joke around the world.
“I grew up in a society where you do not question the government so the concept of social justice was so foreign to me.”
When I first arrived in New York City, I found it so different from what I had expected.
I thought New York City would be like Hong Kong, 24 hours with endless night light and endless stream of people. But right before our flight landed in JFK, I looked down from the window, feeling a quiet winter, rather than a busy metropolis.
Maybe it was because of the coldness, but I remember clearly my first day in the U.S. I arrived around eight o’clock at night, and all stores were closed. Furthermore, very few people were walking on the street.
Everything was harder than I thought. I joined my class in the middle of the semester, and it was an awkward time to make friends. Plus, I was totally new here.
There was so many things in class I couldn’t understand during my first semester. I remember that during history class, there was a lecture about the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. It was about China so I assumed that I knew what they are talking about, but I had never learned that in school before.
My father had told me something about that before, and it have been mentioned on some documentary on TV too but I did not know much about it . I am from Guangdong (a mainland province next to Hong Kong).
The TV in our house back in China can receive TV signal from Hong Kong, like TVB channel of Hong Kong. But when it starts to talk about some sensitive issue, the image on TV we received would quickly turn into advertisement.
I found it ironic that I finally learned about this painful part of Chinese history in America during class. But even then when I learned about it, I still didn’t understand the reason behind the protest, the point of such uprising.
I was very naive and obedient. I grew up in a society where you do not question the government so the concept of social justice was so foreign to me.