The New Student Experience

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The New Student Experience

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This is a brief history in the education

of a Venezuelan youth 

eight grade

my tongue has never been able to speak elegantly

except in math class where my

hands became an extension of my language

I could reach places to comprehend the

numbers that would structure most of our

daily lives 1 through 10

My Teacher always understood 

she was sweet like honey

and that’s exactly what she called me 

pipes and vents react to my happiness

and cold air starts flowing

I look outside and 

I see that winter is coming 

my tongue has always been prone to getting me in places where 

I just don’t want to be 

who knew 

that learning English from Adam Levine

or Bruno Mars was not ideal 

to be applied in lunch

Ninth grade

my tongue learned that it’s better to be alone and

happy than speak and struggle

but then

lunchtime comes

and brown paper bags become palm trees

the contents within it

seashells 

the frescolita becomes

frescolita

and brown paper bags

remind me that cold lunches 

never tasted so warm 

fast forward to tenth grade

where my tongue has made friends after

being tempered in snow

it is now sluggish homesick I can no

longer comprehend illogical language but

I can now write 

I still flinch every time the 

AC comes on

when I sit down in class snowflakes talk to me

my tongue has stopped moving 

I learned now is never here 

and we never are

but we are always becoming 

yet I’m welcomed by the blizzard 

in school lovers and friends 

but my parents remind me that home

 comes in the shape of brown paper bags 

so I’m still the palm trees

I’m still the coral beaches

I’m still the goddamn frescolita 

and I will not be translated so easily 

because I am still Venezolano

y por que con un Corazón venezolano

I learned home never fades

 

December 12, 2014, my family planned a trip to go visit my aunt who lived in Houston, After a month of vacation, my parents told me and my siblings that we were going to stay another five months to test life in the US in comparison to living in Venezuela. The first two weeks of school I got really sick because of the anxiety coming to school caused me. The worst part of the school wasn’t the cold classes or studying- it was lunch. Having no one to sit with or talk to is fine if it’s by choice but being unable to even attempt a conversation is a soul-crushing feeling. After a while I found some friends who spoke Spanish, they also helped me out with my English. By the end of middle school, my English was considered on level in Texas but my confidence didn’t let me use what I learned.

 

In the summer of 2015, I decided that I had to take my English to the next level. I read from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. In two months I read the Harry Potter saga and after that, I read the song and Ice and Fire saga. During the weekends, I would try to watch some movies. I would definitely recommend people to read if they were trying to learn a language but I wouldn’t recommend how I did it.

 

Freshmen year this was an uneventful year, even though this was the summer I worked the most, it was certainly the year where I was the least confident. I made some friends, which was a huge step from not even talking to everyone but I felt very disconnected from the American high school culture. 

 

In the summer of 2016, I decided that instead of reading I should do more listening so I started watching Youtube videos and movies in English without any subtitles. My logic behind this approach was if I could keep up with a youtube video I can keep up with a normal conversation. The movies were more to understand the pop culture references I didn’t get.

 

Sophomore year started off like freshman year, but thanks to my English teacher it turned around for the better. They gave me the confidence I lacked and helped me out when I almost had a panic attack when we had to read our poems. I ended up winning in our classroom and to this day I’m very proud of it. Winning and opening up about my story was a huge confidence booster, being able to be vulnerable and not get hurt was a thing I didn’t think was possible and I’m truly grateful for that experience because it shaped me into the person I’m today.

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