Lourdes Santis Student of the Year.jpg

Journey as a Bilingual and International Student

Sometimes life can present us opportunities that can be seen more as challenges without any benefits at all, but that can only be seen over time. This was a lesson that I learned from my experiences as a bilingual and international student that had to start a whole new life while also adapting to new cultural rules and social environments. These experiences helped me to value the importance of perseverance and courage while helping to develop myself better academically and reaching my goals. I also learned to appreciate the people around me as well as the support that they provided me.

During my journey, I learned about the importance of perseverance and courage in my life by observing the great benefits that they could have in my life. When I came to the United States about a year and a half ago, I was confronted to the fact that I was now living in a whole new world that looked almost like the ones that I had heard in fiction books or movies and that I was convinced could not exist, but it was all real. As many people can imagine, going to a new country with the hope of making a better life can be hard when you are confronted with language differences and cultural shocks that could easily disorient anyone with no idea where they were, and I didn’t even know how to respond to a “How are you?” properly without looking for the Google Translate. I was twelve years old when I arrived at the Texas airport with my mom and little sister looking for my great aunt to come and get us. I remember being excited, but the tiredness of a ten-hour trip dissipated any way for me to feel emotions. When my great aunt finally received us we had to prepare each other for a four-hour trip to her house in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Although I was happy to see my great aunt and to finally head somewhere with a bed, the feeling of melancholy and sadness overcame me when I remembered the family members and friends that I had left behind in my country Guatemala and the few probabilities of seeing them again. When we finally got to my great aunt’s house, my mom, sister and I could finally get our desired break, which would prepare us for our upcoming challenges. For my surprise, I would be starting school as soon as possible. I arrived on a Friday, which meant that I only had a few days before starting the American student life-style and trying luck at a new school. We didn’t know about anything about the new place in which we were in, nor about schools near us. If it wasn’t for my great aunt, a Spanish teacher, we wouldn’t have found my new school, Woodlawn Middle School. I must admit that with no experience with international education, my journey to a new school in a new country made me nervous and even stressed me. However, I counted with the support of my mother, who is always there for me. Thanks to my mom’s comfort, I could find strength to venture in my new-school experience. On my first day, I was introduced to Ms. Pan, the ESL Program Coordinator. Because of my short knowledge of English, I had to be part of a program in which I could learn to express myself and understand others like I did in Spanish. Thanks to Ms. Pan’s kindness and sweetness, this change of classroom was easy to me. In my ESL class I met many of my now friends that shared the same feelings of disorientation and confusion that I did, and they also helped me to overcome them and feel included again, as a special mention, my best friend and classmate Jeferson Herrera.

However, it was still hard for me to get used to my new academic life which was very different from the one I had in Guatemala. During my student years in Guatemala I had a good academic record that highlighted me between my classmates and that put me in high honor places. It could easily contrast with my academic life in the United States, well many of my achievements in the classroom were from good behaviour. Thus, I setted a goal for myself in which I would try to do the best I could on my academic performance so that it could match the one that I had in Guatemala. Although reaching that goal wasn’t easy, I counted with the help of many people around me that inspired me to persevere through the rough days of school, the hard math problems, and the complicated English passages. I also gained the courage to keep moving forward regardless of the social challenges that I faced as an immigrant and hispanic person in a world with hatred and prejudice. I found myself anxious to learn more about the English language and getting better at it so that I could soon teach my family and friends about it. I was convinced of succeeding so that I could make my family’s sacrifices worth it and showed them that they could lay their hopes on me. After a couple of months, my efforts had borne fruit when my report cards showed A’s and B’s, and later on I was granted recognition for my academic performance that emphasized my hard work and perseverance. I was proud for making such achievements in a short time, and happy because my goal of succeeding was being filed. During my first summer in the United States, I spent most of my time preparing for next school year, which I also followed with the same goal to success and achievements without ignoring the importance of learning new things and making them part of my general knowledge. I also became aware of the many other academic opportunities that were not limited to only good grades, but also an advanced education and opportunities for my future. That was when I became aware of the Magnet Program and the many opportunities that I could get if I joined it. I was also interested in passing my ELPT test, which would define me if I was staying in the ESL Program. These possibilities opened to me new goals to reach that would be focused on higher achievements and opportunities. As a result of my hard work and the help from many of my awesome teachers, I was able to enter the Magnet Program and passed my ELPT test, which was also part of one of my biggest accomplishments. Unfortunately, as a result of the recent pandemic, I couldn’t finish my whole seventh grade year as I would have liked, leaving most of my friends unexpectedly and with my academic performance interrupted. The good thing about it was that I had more time to prepare myself for the upcoming year in an advanced program and perfecting my English. After last summer, my school life has changed a lot, well now I have online classes and I am away from most of my friends, making it a little lonely. But this has not stopped me from keeping me to fill my goals and trying my best in everything that I can do, both academically and socially.

Recently, I have been nominated as the Student of the Year, which makes me really happy and honored, as well as grateful for all the support that I have received since the first time I walked through the school’s doors.

Indeed, my journey as a bilingual and international student was not easy, and was followed by many challenges and struggles that I could have never imagined to face, but that I was able to overcome with the support from the many people around me, that have inspired me to keep going and have gained a special part in my heart. I also got to meet many awesome teachers that guided me to success with their teaching and patience, such as Mrs Brown, the best Principal that I have had during all my student life, because she has always believed in me, supported me; Ms. Banks, my math teacher, helped me to understand my potential; and Mrs. Pan, who taught me that it can be possible to speak another language. Also, Mrs. Hudson, Mr. Aucoin, Mrs. Roberston, Mrs. Hasten, and all the teachers that have been there for me and made my journey easier and better.

I have also been able to reach my goals and gain new achievements from perseverance and hard work, which I have had the strength to maintain throughout confidence and the courage of trying all new things that I am aware can have a good impact on me and my academic future, aspiring to college opportunities that will affect me along the way.