Translated by me.
Edited by Marta Russoniello.
Place of Origin: Milan, Italy
When and why did you come to America?
I’m from Milan, Italy. I came to America for the first time on October 2011 thanks to an internship for educators with a J1 VISA. I was in Minnesota for three months working as a youth counselor in a juvenile center and three months in Massachusetts in a center for disability services. Then I moved to New Jersey, indefinitely, in 2012 thanks to my husband’s job.
What is your favorite thing about America?
I always dreamed of living in America, it has always been “fascinating” to me, different, I mean everything is good; I admire the politeness of people, the courtesy, because in Italy no one greets you while walking down the street, but here they do! The feeling of community, the civic feeling, and the patience when dealing with respecting the rules or the lines at the post office!
America is a cross-cultural country, there’s a heavy gathering of cultures, I’m part of it and I find it great, it makes you feel like you’re part of something that looks towards progression, towards the future.
What is something you dislike about America?
The first thing that comes to mind is the healthcare system but I’ve come to live with it. Other than this, up to now I don’t really know of something that I actually dislike about America, but I believe that coming from another place you tend to make comparisons often with the country of origin and you find things that you preferred before and other things that you now prefer.
Did you face any challenges while living here? If so, what were they?
Yes, learning English was a challenge; I consider the knowledge of the local language as the first step towards integration, therefore the sooner you learn it, the better. Because the feeling you get when people around you don’t speak your language and you don’t speak theirs is horrible, but obviously it’s the key to learning it. It’s exhausting not being able to communicate; your emotions are especially tested. Your true personality struggles to come out. I seemed shy, when in fact I wasn’t really at all! When one immigrates to a foreign country the link with the previous place is nonexistent and loneliness is inevitable. But, if you make the first step towards integration, every door opens and you’re embraced well. But building a new network of friendships, getting to know people takes time and willpower and yet nothing would be able to replace the relationships that you left back home.
Do you consider yourself ‘American’? If so, why?
I consider myself Italian more than anything else, but part of me also feels American, especially since my daughter was born here and it ties me even closer to this place.
Place of Origin: Merate, Italy
When did you move to America?
What’s the one thing you miss the most in Italy?
What were some challenges, if any, that you faced?
My family’s disapproval. I was in the country completely alone and I was lacking of their support.They were not thrilled of the fact that I was going to leave for the U.S. for an entire year, and when I extended for an additional 12 months they were very upset.
What’s the one thing you like the most about America?
What do you dislike the most about America?
What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?
My dad is Filipino, Italian, and German but was born in America. My mom is from the Philippines.
Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?
I feel tied to the Filipino culture but not fully connected to it. I have always wanted to learn the language but because I was born here it was hard for me to have the opportunity to learn it.
Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?
I actually refer to myself as an American. Although I am very proud to be Filipino I feel my roots are very grounded in this country. I speak English, I eat more of the foods from this country, and am more exposed to its culture and history. When it comes to my values I guess I could say I am a little more reserved and find more influence from the Filipino culture and even Italian.
Do you feel like you’re part of one ethnic group more than the other?
I actually find myself more connected to the Italian culture right now, mainly because I am more involved in it. Speaking the language, knowing the culture, and knowing more of its history makes me feel as if it is more a part of me. I think the language is what makes me feel more of a connection to it. When I was younger I really wanted to learn Tagalog, the Filipino language, but unfortunately I was rejected from the language. Not purposely, but because I was born in America and it was easier for my mom to teach me English and apply it.
Italian however, I had a more welcoming introduction and find myself more surrounded by those who are Italian and who speak it. In a sense that gave me a sort of community. I will always consider Filipino as a part of me, and I do have many friends and those who I am close to who are Filipino. But I feel there is a bit of a distance between me and being Filipino.
Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?
I feel tied to being Filipino but not connected to it.
Place of Origin: Kilkelly, Ireland
When and why did you move to America?
“I came to America when I was 18 and the main motivations for coming here the first time was to meet my biological parents, cause I was adopted when I was 8 years old. So I was born in the United States, so I came back here to meet with my parents and while I was here, because I have American citizenship, I decided to start going to university here. [Majoring in Linguistics]”
What do you like about America?
“There are definitely more seasons here, than Ireland. And there… I wouldn’t say more or less, but there are different job opportunities here.”
[In what ways are they different?]
“The job opportunities? Well… For example, from where I’m from, in Ireland, job opportunities are very colloquial. There’s a lot of stuff that you would do like hard labor, manual labor. Whereas you have to go towards bigger cities like Galloway and Dublin, things like that, in order to find office jobs or jobs with larger companies, whereas here it’s a lot easier, there’s a lot of different places that you can find, you don’t necessarily need to live in or near a major city.”
What don’t you like about America?
“The culture is very different.”
[Is it a matter of adjusting?]
“It’s about adjusting and the food quality is just not as good. I don’t think the living quality is as good. People I think generally are a lot less happy, in America then they are in other places, because they don’t get as much free time and if they do they don’t know how to enjoy their free time other than indulging themselves into technologies and electronics and stuff like that.”
Was it hard for you to adapt?
“It was a shock and it was a little bit difficult to adjust, because I come from a village of 300 people. So, when I first got off the plane in New York City, in JFK, I saw more people than I have ever seen in my entire life.”
** Hernen was born in the United States, but identifies himself as Irish because he grew up there, knows its culture, and language better than the United States.**
**In addition, he has a heavy Irish accent.**