Memorial Worldwide: by Kimberly Kien, Tu Anh Duong, and Eve Brown-Ryder

In today’s chaotic world, people are bombarded by what they hear and see in the media. Noticeably on the rise are politics in the United States. Stirring up the pot is the caravan from Central America and other immigration issues. While everyone does have their own view on these issues, what makes America unique is that all citizens here are from different walks of life. With that in mind, writers for The Memorial Crusader News have interviewed a number of students from all over the world with the help of Mrs. King and her class.

Maritsa Flores was one of the seven students to be interviewed. This is her story on how and why she came to the United States:

Maritsa Flores

“I am 17 years old. I [was] born in Manchester NH, but when I was little my parents took the decision to go to Mexico. My family is composed of my father, mother and brother; we are a small family.  When my parents and I went to Mexico, we had a good time. My parents raised me and my brother in Mexico. Time passed and I had already graduated from school. I took a while without studying, but I took the decision to come to the United States to study and graduate so I could be someone in life.”

Soon after, she arrived in the United States on February 18, 2017 with one goal in mind:

“I wanted to study in the U.S. and get a good a job. I wanted to help my father and mother come to the U.S. someday.”  

When asked about her experiences in the United States, she said the following:

“The first time I arrived in the United States I was excited, as I was coming to study. But I was thinking: I left my parents in Mexico and my brother, I was sad to leave them. But once, my mom told me ‘you need to get ahead, fight for your life and be strong in the most difficult times.’ I was living in my aunt’s house in Rhode Island, I went to school and I loved it because… most of the students were Latinos. I made fast friends and I had someone to talk with, then I decided to come and study at another school. I came with my grandparents to live and I went to Memorial High school, the first day… I was nervous, because… I knew English but I did not know it all. But I loved being here since they treated me very well in this school.”

One of Maritsa’s obstacles was learning English. She wanted to learn more of this language because she felt that learning English would help her get a better job.

“My first class that I had was with Ms. Frid and I had a study period with Ms. King. Ms. Frid taught [me] English for three weeks.”

Maritsa is getting closer and closer to getting a good job, and with that she can help people that are important to her, like her parents.

“I came because I want to learn more English, to take a career when I leave high school, and support my parents. I also want to be able to help my parents to come to the United States.”

The next student is Cristyn Gervacios,  who moved from the Dominican Republic where she was born, to Puerto Rico, to America:

Cristyn Gervacios

“I came here last year because of the hurricane in Puerto Rico, I was going to come this year, but because of what happened, I had to come last year. I have always wanted to visit another country.”

“At first it was kind of hard, because I knew English but I didn’t know everything about English. I used to speak [English] with my uncle but it’s not the same, because in the U.S. you have to speak every day. It was also hard because the classes in here, like the subjects, is very different from the classes in the Dominican Republic [and] in Puerto Rico.”

“I came to Memorial High School in 2017. Physics was my first class that I took when I arrived in Memorial High School. I took EL classes with Nicholl last year. The class was like English. [At] first I was kind of scared, because I didn’t know how my classmates would perceive me or how they would react.”

It was difficult for her to adjust to her new school, and to America. However, she has a goal that can be achieved with enough hard work and effort:

“I would like to be become a doctor because I’ve always dreamed about that.”

Cynthia Barrientos is the third interviewee. She arrived in the United States on April 12, 2018.

Cynthia Barrientos

“I wanted to come to the U.S. because my mom wanted me to study because in Mexico I wasn’t studying. In Mexico, I didn’t want to study, and my mom told me that I should study in the United States. So my mom asked a family friend to bring me to the United States to study there instead. I am here in the United States with my aunt and my cousin. My dad lives in Oklahoma and my mother is in Mexico.”

“I spent two months seeing around and then I came to Memorial High School. I am taking EL class with Ms. King and Ms. Frid.”

“When I finish high school here, I would like to visit Mexico maybe a few days and then come back to live in the United States. I would like to learn how to drive here, because usually in my country, we start at about 18 or 19 years old, and I would like to learn how to speak English too.”

“It’s been difficult for me because I didn’t know any English. In every way, the school is very difficult, like if you were to compare the school here to Mexico, it would be different. Everything like the subjects, the buildings the roads, everything.”

This is Edgar Lemus, the fourth student, and his account of his experiences in America:

Edgar Lemus

“My dad called me, and my dad asked me if I wanted to go to the U.S. I said ‘yes.’ First, my dad was in Guatemala with me. My dad made papers for me to study here. My stepmom claimed me as her son. It’s a little difficult to explain, because there was a big process and lots of paperwork. I do not know a lot about the paperwork. My stepmom and my dad handled the paperwork. My stepmom came from Uruguay to the United States.” Before coming to the United States, I was studying in Guatemala. Last year, in 2017, I studied one year of electricity and this year, 2018, I had to study the second year of science. That is because this course was three years. My dad called me one day and asked me if I wanted to travel to the United States and study and I said ‘yes, of course.’ This is the reason I came to the United States.”

Edgar moved to America in February of 2018 with this aspiration in mind:

“I like living here… in the U.S. because I want to speak English and so that later I can get a good job.”

However,  his goal was not easy to attain.

“My first day in the school… I didn’t understand the language. I asked many questions because I needed to know the definition of the words. I needed to know the most important words and phrases for expressing myself.”

Once he arrived at his first school in the U.S., he was determined to learn the English language so that he could have more opportunities as he grew older.

“On my first day at Memorial High School, the director took me to Ms. Frid. I was nervous because I imagined a translator would be here for me because that is what my dad told me.  Now, I am glad that didn’t happen because I wouldn’t have learned as much. Ms. Frid teaches English. Last year, she taught me English for three months. This year, I still have a class with Ms. Frid and one with Ms. Nicholl. In the beginning I wanted to have more classes with them, but now I think it is better to not have a lot of EL classes with them because I can learn myself in other classes too.”

The fifth and sixth students that were interviewed were Abeer Shabaka, a senior from Cairo, Egypt and Koffi Kadjo, a junior from Côte D’Ivoire.

Abeer Shabaka
Koffi Kadjo

The first question they were asked was how they came to the United States:

Abeer: “I came here to the United States two years ago by plane. I first settled in Moulton, Massachusetts for a few months before moving up to New Hampshire. My father has lived here for seventeen years, and I came with my sister. I have two older sisters. I did not want to leave as my mother was still in Egypt. However, a better future awaited for me. A different future as opposed to everyone else back at home. I wanted something different. I also wanted to travel and have a better understanding of the world.”

Koffi: “I came here to the United States recently, March of this year, by plane. I came directly to New Hampshire. I have four brothers and two sisters. My father, he is still back at home… is a doctor. My country was going through a war. It was during 2010, and the armies from the surrounding countries came in together to get the bad people out. One time my father was sitting at his chair and after he got up got up, five seconds later a bullet struck the chair. He was very scared. I wanted a better future and education for myself. I came here to study and then to work.”

Next, the students were asked if there was anything about their American experience that they would like to share:

Abeer: “I was nervous for the first few days. I did not want to come here. I was going to leave my friends and my mother. I did not have anyone, and I wanted to go back. I couldn’t talk to anyone. At the same time, I knew this would be a new fresh start. I was afraid of not making new friends.”

Koffi: “I was sad to leave my friends back home. However, I was happy to make more friends here. Communication was cut off. Here, everyone speaks English and I had to learn to speak a new language. Nevertheless, I wanted to try. When speaking, you have to think of every word that you are going to say and practice. It’s a little bit difficult, but it’s alright.”

They then shared their views on the United States:

Abeer: “The United States has better jobs, and I know that I will become successful. While at the same time, I do miss Egypt. I wish to see my home again. I never feel the same way as I do back at home. It is hard for me to forget my home and my country and I believe that I never will. I know that this country is better for me though.”

Koffi: “This country offers a better life for me. However, back at home people are warm and friendly. Here, it is still an adjustment that I still need to make. People were outside nearly every day doing something as opposed to here. I suppose every culture is different.”

The last topic up for discussion was if there were any final thoughts the interviewees had to share and they both agreed that when they were in their own countries, they were free to do whatever they wanted. However, when they came here, they did not know what was right to do and what was not. In other words: they felt more comfortable in their home countries.

The seventh and final interviewee was Quan Quy, a junior at Memorial who arrived from Vietnam in 2017.

Quan Quy

His family moved here for better opportunities, and the transition has been less than easy for him. For starters, there is quite a language barrier in place. “Sometimes [Americans] speak and it’s… hard to remember the structure [of English],” and that language barrier has led to other, more social, problems. “I don’t have so many friends because I don’t speak much English, so it’s kind of boring.”

Despite not being completely familiar with the language, Quan has filled his schedule with English language learners, algebra II, geometry, English III, chemistry, and U.S. history. Although Quan struggles with the more language-based aspects of school, such as English and social studies, he likes math and science because “in [Vietnamese] high schools they start precalculus [in] ninth grade.” Despite having a difficult time with school, Quan tries his best in an attempt to seize all available opportunities in his new country.

Along with the language and curriculum differences, one of the biggest differences Quan noticed upon his arrival was the American school system providing two day weekends and holiday vacations. The entire structure of the American schooling system is very different from that of Vietnam. “You have to take a test [to get] from middle school to high school, if you get [a] low grade you’re going to get nowhere.” Quan also noted that “High school in Vietnam starts with tenth grade [and goes] to twelfth.” Also in Vietnam Quan remembered “You just sit in one class and the teacher comes and teaches you and here you have to travel around the school to get into classes.”

Even though Quan has to adjust to life in America, he has some plans for what he wants to do now that he is here. “First, I have to practice English, and I have to aim my SAT score high.” Then, once he gets his high SAT score he wants to get a job in the science field, “maybe a computer engineer or pharmacist.” Overall, Quan wants to stay in America and put down roots here. “I want a house [and] kids. That’s why I’m trying to learn and study.”

Adapting to a new environment is not easy, especially getting used to a new culture and its language. All students at Memorial and elsewhere have their own stories and struggles that they endure. Perseverance is one of the key aspects of accomplishing goals. From reading the stories of these students, anyone can see that it is more important for them than most to persevere and keep their head up when things get hard. The MMHS community should be proud of fostering an environment where students from all heritages and backgrounds can come together, learn new things, and reach for the stars.

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