Coming to America: Giulia

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Place of Origin: Merate, Italy

When did you move to America?

I came to America on August 5th, 2013. Right after I finished high school.

What’s the one thing you miss the most in Italy?

I miss the way of life and my family. Even though things are changing, in Italy, people still pay attention to having a balanced life. People still cook with good quality food, they walk a lot, they simply enjoy hanging out in a park or on a bench in the main square. The contact with nature in most of the country is still very important. Moreover, my entire family is still there: my mom, dad, sister, niece, brother, everyone! During holidays and festivities is when I miss them the most, but I also miss even just having a good chat with my sister on a regular day.

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?

I like the intercultural exchange the most. I love that I can meet people from all over the world, get to know their stories and their culture, and, if I’m lucky, a little bit of their language. I think it makes me richer as a person and teaches me on so many different levels. I also like that, at least in my experience, everyone seems approachable. For example, if you are introduced to a person that has quite an important job or is a “big shot,” and you later send them an email, you have pretty good chances that they answer. It does not really work like that in Italy.

What do you dislike the most about America?

I don’t like the falsity with which people tell you, you have all the opportunities in front of you. I have been looking, and it has not been easy, especially for an immigrant, to see all the opportunities they are talking about. The American dream is just a dream, unless you have a couple of degrees, no students loans, and quite some money already. There are opportunities if you are willing to work for free mostly. Sometimes I really understand why people decide to come here illegally or just work under the table. Sometimes it is the only way you can have some of those opportunities.
 
Due to your situation, if you had the choice, would you rather live in America or Italy?
 
I think I will want to live in Italy, and this is why I think I am moving back. I just enjoy the lifestyle better there. Also, for me to get another visa or to start the application for the green card costs just way too much money. I do not have the resources now to stay here.

Coming to America: Hernen

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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.**

Coming to America: Swadeep

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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

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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!”