“First, I was nervous, I didn’t sleep for the entire night wondering what’s going to happen. When I first arrived at school, I wondered if I could have a friend that can help me in understanding what the teacher was saying. Listening to the Professor’s lecture was like trying to comprehend what a baby wants with their mumbles and cries. Then, I felt silly and alone, like a desperate fish that fell out of the water, trying its best to survive. I was so lonely and helpless as if being stranded in an abandoned desert. Finally, my desires to come to school were scarce.”
I believe this is how new students describe their first day of school as newcomers in the United States. By migrating to another country and having to adapt to a new and unfamiliar environment, the new school may feel like a disaster. It can be tough for us to toss everything behind and move on to another journey especially leaving behind old friends, learning a new language, interacting with people of different cultures, tradition, and languages. Even more, new students can’t expect things to be similar to their native country; to have friends, be able to understand your classmates, share something in common.
As new students, we face emotional changes such as feeling lonely, depressed, isolated, not being able to make friends, and not feeling motivated. Often time, we don’t listen to our teacher not because of us being lazy but due to the language barrier and the difficulty of advanced classes. At the end of the day, we leave school without learning a single thing.
Lucky for the natives that won’t have to adapt since they were born here and brought up here. Beginning at kindergarten, they learn basic things like the alphabet, colors, bowels, animals proceeding to the expansive English vocabulary. Naturally, they’ll be well versed in English, allowing them to understand and solve complex tasks as easy as pie. On the other hand, the process of adaptation is difficult for newcomers, since they have to start from scratch, learning the alphabet, understand vocabulary, pronunciation, develop their mind to resolve difficult task (all of this in merely four years).
I interviewed a student named John –a new student in Liberty High School for Newcomers having English as his second language.
“It’s so difficult for me to make friends even though I always go to school … Nobody ever tried to help me when I need assistance in translating texts. I’m too shy to ask questions, and I feel uncomfortable to sit in the front because I don’t want people to make fun of me.”
We then interviewed one of the teachers at Liberty High School. He told us about his experience in American high school and provided us with a piece of advice to help the new student.
“Going to school was very interesting for me. When I first arrived the school, I was amazed by the size and how advanced it is; there’s a lot of students, I didn’t know my teacher, what I have to do with my program, the first few weeks were very tough for me. Even though education in the United States was better than in my country, nothing beats the friendliness and the delicious food that we have in my country. I missed my family, friends, and having an academic routine. I know that the cultural barrier that we face as an immigrant is not easy to adapt, but it’s vital not to forget our origins. By having an open mind, we will be able to do our best in collaborating and working with others. If you have any inquiries you need to talk to teachers and ask questions because we as a teacher don’t know you, we don’t know what problem you are facing.’’
We also spoke to Ms. Mejia, a Counselor from Liberty High School.
Brandon: “As a counselor, what advice would you give to students to help them to adapt to this new environment?”
Ms. Mejia: “ First of all, I would encourage old students to respect new students, as for the newly admitted students, I advise you to be patient, as patience is the key to success. We will try our best to provide you with a lot of opportunities to pursue your dream. Old students, do not make fun of the newcomers as you were also the “new” once. Remember the first day you came to school and how difficult it was to understand and find friends. Culture, skin color and religion don’t matter as we’re all humans after all. We must assist them as we all came in the same boat, so please do your best to communicate with them and get to know them.
Start with a welcoming gesture, invite them to sit with you during lunch period, help them to figure out their schedule, interpret difficult readings for them, take the initiative to find out more about them. Make them feel comfortable like this place is the second home that they can rely on. Also don’t forget to introduce them to all benefits that this school can provide you, which includes tutoring and counseling.