Coming to America: Armando

Armando

Place of Origin: Lima, Peru

When and why did you come to America?

“When? Uh… Lets see… 1980, March 1980 I came to the US [At 20 years old]. Why? To pursue a better future. Like most immigrants do. I came with my whole family, my brothers, my mother, and father. My parents decided to emigrate from Peru to the US.”

What kind of struggles, if any, did you face when you first moved here?

“Language. The language was the main barrier, at the beginning, and uh… it was difficult in the beginning, of course, like for everyone else. To learn English, understand it, and speak it. In Peru they teach you English in the school system, but it was very basic. Like the alphabet and that’s it. So when I came here, I realized that I didn’t know any English. So I took ESL courses, English as a Second Language, for a year and in the meantime I was practically going into college. Luckily for me they took me a year after I came into the US. So I started going to college, NJIT, but I didn’t know a lot of English and It was a little bit of a struggle in the beginning, trying to perform well in engineering and then at the same time struggling with the language. But you manage.”

What do you miss the most about Peru?

“At the beginning it was friends, cousins, but once you get used to living here you make friends and you meet other people. Then that’s it. You don’t really miss it that much. Well, I don’t miss it that much.”

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned since moving here?

“Well, one thing is for sure. There is no other country like the United States. It’s all up to the individual to get ahead or to stay at the bottom. I  stood at the bottom, to be honest, but you fight, you work hard, and you stay focused on what you want to do and where you want to go. And luckily for me, I managed to get ahead. So that’s a big lesson for me, it’s all up to you to get ahead, contrary to other countries where it’s harder.”

Do you keep in touch with your roots? Are there certain things you do, like follow traditions?

“I do keep some tradition, my mother just came back from Peru and she brought some goodies from Peru, which I like, but other than that… I do keep some traditions, in Peru on midnight on New Years, you grab 12 grapes, 1 for every month, and you eat them quick. It’s supposed to be good fortune. All the people run around with a piece of luggage, it’s supposed to bring you luck so you can travel the world. I don’t follow that tradition, I just eat the grapes.”

How would you feel if your son moved to Peru?

“He wouldn’t make it. He could not make it. If he wanted to move, I would feel fine, hey that’s his choice, but I know that he’s too used to the United States. It’s all a matter of adapting. I know some people who come here when they’re older and then they go back. But I’m not like that, I’m too used to the United States, I adapted already. But, you know, it varies.”

So what do you identify yourself as?

“Well… I identify myself as both, to be honest, I like the culture that Peru, that I learned in Peru, a lot of history and I’m proud of that. But at the same time I’m thankful to the United States, because this is where I’m getting my opportunity to get ahead, which I didn’t have in Peru, I mean I was going to college in Peru, don’t take me wrong, but the opportunity to get a job over there are very slim. And back then, you also had terrorism, so it would’ve been a lot harder for me to get to where I am now. So in that sense, I am very thankful to the United States.”

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The New York Public Library

NCYL_GB
Beautiful on the outside, but even better inside. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside, but if you live on the east coast you should definitely take the time to check this place out. They occasionally hold FREE events, I actually attended their photography exhibition today. It’s called “Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography” and it’s going to be open until January 3, 2016. It’s very interesting and it’s FREE! Click here for more information.

Coming to America: Swadeep

Swadeep_GB

Place of origin: Madurai, India

When did you move to America and why?

“Well, the reason I came here was because my dad got a job in the US. He actually finished his Ph.D. in India and he couldn’t get a job there so he was able to get one here. I came here when I was 4 so around 1998, I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio.”

Was it hard for you to adapt?

“It was a big change and I didn’t know anyone and neither did my family, so it was just us three and I didn’t know how to speak English. It was hard to adapt and since you don’t go to school here until you’re about 5 years old, so I had a year here where I would just watch TV and that’s technically how I learned to speak English. Other than that, I had a few friends that would live in the same building as me in the apartment, but other than that I didn’t really know anybody, so the first year was hard, just getting used to the weather, the people, and the culture.

What do you like most about America?

“The opportunities, like you can do whatever you want to do. Like if you want to be a pilot or you want to be the president of the United States [you are only eligible if you’re a natural born citizen — I explained this to him after the interview], like if you work for it there’s no dreams that can’t go without being validate. Um… The girls are hot [laughs]…. I don’t know the people are just more lively and more friendly, they’re more open, so it’s more of a fun environment and it’s not stressful. The weather is also nice, it’s not humid or hot.”

What don’t you like about living in America?

“What don’t I like? Um… taxes. Cause in India you can like not do your taxes and still get by, but here there’s so many rules and regulations cause you have to follow. There’s not much that I hate about the US.”

Since you came here at a very young age, do you feel like a foreigner whenever you visit your home country?

“I do, just because I don’t personally remember too many occurrences of like — I have a few memories here and there of my childhood, but like I always considered the US home cause I was raised here. So all of my childhood memories, teenage memories, adult memories are pretty much in the US. So I always considered it home, the US is always going to be my primary home.”

Coming to America: Serena

Serena_GB

Translated by me.

Place of origin: Milan, Italy

When did you come to America and why?

“I came here in February of last year, but I had come here previously  at the age of 18 with intentions of learning English at an international school in the state of New York. Above all, I came here for the practicality of leaning English and secondly due to a love story (moved in with husband). Therefore, a little bit of both [laughs].”

Was it hard for you to adapt?

“Yea… really really hard. It’s not like adapt in terms of language. It’s really hard, the language, especially when you can’t express yourself and people don’t understand you. In Italy we’re taught English at a vry young age, but it’s textbook English, and when you face reality it’s a problem. The other problem, in my opinion, in adapting is tied with the diverse way of thinking and even at the religious level. Also, well, it’s not really home here but this place will definitely be my home for the future, but it’s still not home. I just still don’t feel like it’s my home. I live with my husband, but obviously I don’t have anyone close . And with friends, in my opinion, it’s a lot harder to make friends here. They [Americans] have different type pf relationships, for them making friends is like more for self benefit, I’m not really sure how to say it, but like there are motives behind it. Instead, in Italy, you’re friends with someone because we want to know each other and we want to go out for a beer or something.”

What do you like most about America?

“From what I see, there’s more respect between people and the integration of different cultures, because in Italy there still isn’t. Like how you’re Italian, he’s German, and he has Arabic origins etc., there’s just this fantastic ‘melting pot’. And of course work, there’s certainly more opportunities for younger people. Also, the level of scientific research and the available funds for scientific research or for other projects.”

What don’t you like about America?

“This is hard… What don’t I like about America? I don’t like that it’s not like my home, it’s not like Italy. But sometimes  I think in my hometown in Italy, ‘why isn’t Italy like this?’. But  I mean , there isn’t really something that I don’t like [thinking], well maybe the idea of patriotism here that there is a lot of pride and like the unity of the flag and ‘nation-state’ pushing the identity of America like ‘we are a single nation’ or ‘we are the best’ but in reality like how is it possible that you are the best? That can’t be. Another thing is that people easily have guns and I feel very afraid how everyone has guns because anyone can just take out a gun and shoot you for no reason. It’s funny how attached they are to their guns!”