My Journey to America

Immigrant: one that immigrates, a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residency.

That is the definition for an immigrant according to Webster’s Dictionary. Have you ever asked yourself why the real meaning of the word immigrant included in the dictionary definitions? For me, being an immigrant means changing your customs, leaving your favorite things behind, having to learn a completely different language, and having to adapt to a place that is completely different and new.

Many people have many different reasons for emigrating from one place to another. In my case, having to leave Mexico to come to the United States was simply due to my parents’ desire of a better life and higher opportunities.

I was born and raised in Juarez, Chihuahua. Does this name sound familiar? It’s probably because you’ve heard about it in the news lately. The city I lived in for almost 9 years is now considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. A drug war has brought extreme violence to my hometown. Sometimes I stop to think and become amazingly grateful with everyone that made me living here in the U.S. possible, because I know that the move was something extremely positive. My parents made the “news” extremely random. I remember sitting home one day watching television with my two younger siblings and having my parents turn off the television and say “Empiezen a empacar, nos iremos a vivir a El Paso en una semana” (Start packing. We are moving to El Paso in a week.) My expression was “what???, are they kidding?..” Then after a long afternoon of elaboration on the subject, I became excited. Some immigrant kids build up denial and hate for the idea, but I was the opposite. I wanted to come to the United States and learn “ingles” and act like the kids in TV did. Little did I know, I had so much more in store for me.

July 17, 2002 – That was the BIG day. Economic situations were harsh. I remember moving into our new one room apartment with only a refrigerator inside, but I still had a smile on my face. The next Monday was our first day of school. I recall seeing my 5-year-old brother happily getting into the car excited with a Wal-Mart bag in his hands filled with school materials ready to learn. My sister, who was 7 at the time was the least positive one. She has always been a little reluctant to change. My first day of school was a little bit confusing. I went into a 3rd grade classroom, but I had already completed 3rd grade in Mexico! After a long placement test, my school’s administrators noticed my math was fairly high compared to the other students in 4th grade. Then, I was placed with a fourth grade bilingual teacher. Even though the class was in Spanish and English, we did occasionally have English language quizzes, which I always failed in the beginning. Crying to my parents after school about how tough English was is something that I now realize was a huge inspiration for me to improve. The feeling of not knowing and not understanding was something that gave me the extra push to learn.

Months later, I learned to love school, love the United States and love the English language I was learning so far. When I least knew it, 6th grade came and I was no longer in bilingual classes. I was now in Gifted and Talented classes which was a long jump. It was amazingly challenging to know I was not only in complete English classes only, but in advanced classes. Many times I wanted to give up, but my consistency along with my parents support was very helpful. I’ve stayed in advanced classes up to this point and even gained college course credit in high school.

My life, my family, and my future is much better here in the United States than it would have been in Mexico. My ultimate dream is to become a teacher. My future now looks so clear, so obtainable. I am glad I live in the United States, but I will always be proud of being a “Latina.”

By Pamela Ponce

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