Adapting to a New High School When English Isn’t Your Primary Language

I wanted to get a little more personal and share one of the most difficult, yet most valuable moments in my life. I was raised in Venezuela and moved to the United States when I was 13. I did not know how to speak English at all, I knew a few basic things like “hello” or “thank you” and that is how I went into 8th grade in this new country. Everything was so different from what I was used to and that was one of the reasons why I did not want to adapt to my school or feel at home. I wanted to go back to Venezuela with my family and friends. Being so attached to my past made my process of adaptation so much harder. I did not want to make friends, learn English, or do good in school. The first couple of months were very tough for me, I was upset at my parents for bringing me to a country I never wanted to move to and forcing me to go to school even though I did not understand a single word my teachers were saying. It wasn’t until the school year ended that I realized, that I had 2 options, to adapt to my new life and reality, or be upset and not have a social life all my life, or at least for whatever time I was going to be living here. 

After that realization, I allowed myself to be open to new opportunities and experiences to be comfortable in the place I was living. That summer, I was sent to summer school for English, it was a class where there were only kids who did not know any English. I heard their experiences and some of them had been living in the United States for years and refused to learn English which to me was an eye-opener, not that there is something wrong with thinking like them but I did not want to go years and years feeling left out and like I did not belong with the other kids at my school. I started working so hard during the summer learning English, watching movies, and reading books in English so I could go into high school and know at least a little bit. 

The summer went by and I felt more comfortable with the language and was ready to go into high school and finally understand my classes and make friends. Now, I am not going to say that my first year of high school was easy, because it was not easy at all but I had teachers who helped me so much. I will never forget Ms. Sellers’ class and how much she helped me with my English and also Ms. Raygoza who I can surely say is the best teacher and advisor that I will ever have and also one of the people who have made a big impact on my life. Today I can proudly say that I passed the ELL program exam in less than 6 months and had a high score on it, which could be something so insignificant for some people but only the students who have been struggling with learning a language for years know how hard and frustrating it is to not pass that exam. And here I am, writing articles in a language that sometime in my life I thought I was never going to understand or learn. 

I would like to take this opportunity to tell everyone who is reading this that you are capable of doing everything you put your mind to and no matter what people say or who makes fun of you you can always prove them wrong or even better prove yourself right. More people are going through the same thing as you right now and who understand you, you are not alone and your teacher will help you reach your goal. Also, please be empathetic and understanding with people who are learning your language, you can make such an impact on someone’s life if you help them learn or even be their friend instead of making them feel like they do not belong or making them feel left out.