Coming to America: Guadalupe

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Place of Origin: Caguas, Puerto Rico

When and why did you come to America?

I came to the United States during 10th grade when I was sixteen years old. I came here with my family from Puerto Rico.

What is your favorite thing about America?

I like the cultural variety and the fact that you can do anything you want and really make your dreams come true.

What do you dislike about America?

I don’t like to see discrimination based on your appearance or ethnic background.

Did you face any challenges growing up? If so, what were they?

My first and biggest challenge was learning the language. But given the fact that I liked English and always wanted to learn it, that gave me the incentive I needed to succeed in learning it.

After migrating to the United States, Guadalupe obtained a Bachelors degree in education. In addition, she has written various novels that can be found on Amazon: Click Here

Coming to America: Silvia

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Translated by me.

Place of Origin: Recanati, Marche, Italy

When did you move to America?

I came to America exactly on January 3rd 1999 on a scholarship.

So you came here to study?

I came here right after graduation, which was December of 1998, from the University of Urbino, where I studied Foreign Languages. And I won an exchange student scholarship and I immediately came for the spring semester in 1999 to the University of Columbia in South Carolina for one semester. From there, on another scholarship, I earned my masters in Mass Communications from the University of Miami. The first scholarship I received was only an exchange program to help me adapt to the United States, to help me improve my English. My plan was always to return to Italy either after the exchange program or after my masters and to find a job in a multinational company.

Are you still thinking of returning or would you rather stay here?

Well… It’s different now. My situation is a little more complicated. At the time, I thought of returning to Italy because I didn’t think it was possible having a life in the United States and to get a work visa, plus things just happened one after another. During my master’s degree, for my scholarship, I had to teach Italian and I started pedagogical courses. Instead of returning, when my study visa would have expired, I went for a doctorates degree at the University of Pennsylvania. And after my doctorates I immediately found a place to teach and… here I am! [Adjunct professor at Montclair State University] But now it’s different, with my husband and two kids, every now and then we think, “yes, maybe it would be nice to go back to Italy” but at this point we already have a life here. I would only think about moving back to Italy for my children to be able to be close to their family, because here they don’t have any, because we’re alone, it’s just my husband and I.

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

I’m still very close with my family and friends. Going back to Italy at least twice a year is vital for me. But now we’re not even sure if we should go for Christmas anymore because it’s too much, it’s only for ten days, and it can easily become stressful for the kids. There’s so many people to see and things to do that it becomes more stressful than an actual vacation.

What were some of your struggles when you first came here?

I did and didn’t have struggles, but I mean, everyone does. But I’ve always been a person that likes to adapt to different cultures. I’m not too strict and… I can’t think of anything that was a bit challenging for me.

What’s the one thing you like the most about America?

It’s probably cliché, but there are many more possibilities for people here than there are in Italy, or all of Europe in general. In terms of your career, you can do much more here, especially nowadays.

Coming to America: Carlo

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Place of Origin: Milan, Italy

Where are you from?

“I was originally born in Milan, Italy. I came to the United States when I was 3 years old. I grew up in predominately-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. I attended school there until my sophomore year of high school. I then moved to Florida with my godparents because it gave me the opportunity to play baseball year round. After High school stayed in Florida, I went on to play college baseball and then played minor league baseball. All together, I lived there for 8 years then came back to NY.”

What do you like the most about America?

“I guess the freedoms you have here … uh… I also like football, I like the sports that they have [laughs] No seriously, I like that you have a mixture of different cultures, especially in the north east, where you have the opportunity to experience these different cultures. A little different from other countries including Italy. You have a great diversity of people and culture here in America. I like the fact that it’s a melting pot and you have the freedom to do whatever you want and be whatever you want with hard work.”

What do you hate the most about America?

“What do I hate? Politics. Politics suck everywhere. It’s not any worse than Italy, Italy has far worse problems in regards to politics and the political system that is broken. I don’t like how much it has become ‘I’m on the left side’, ‘I’m on the right side’, and we can’t come together, and compromise on what is best for the people of this country instead of the special interest groups. I’m hoping that changes soon.”

What are some challenges you faced growing up?

“I didn’t really have many challenges that I faced growing up. I mean we came here when I was very young. My parents spoke English and so did I, my dad was actually here for a job, he’s was in banking, and he worked in banking in Italy and they asked him to come here on a three year contract but they then decided to stay. I feel that I am more America than Italian.”

Did you have problems adapting to the culture?

“I think since we had moved to Brooklyn, where just about everyone was of Italian descent or practically right off the boat, it made things easier. Again I was very young but I’m sure it was more difficult for my parents. For me it was just very easy to ‘mesh’. Everybody came from the same background, I had many things in common with people around me, my parents spoke Italian and English, and everybody in my neighborhood spoke English or Italian so that helped. So I didn’t really have many challenges adapting. I can’t complain, my parents worked hard and provided us with whatever they could, it wasn’t a lot, but we were happy with what we had. I had a great childhood. Sometimes I feel like we get away from that happiness of the simply things in life – instead we want more, more, and more things – When is ‘too much’ too much?”

Would you ever move back to Italy with your family?

“Absolutely, I just love the Italian culture, architecture, the warmth of the people, and of course the food. My whole extended family is there. My brothers, sister and parents are the only relative I have in America. I’m one of 6 kids. I would definitely move back and I would take my parents with me… [Laughs] ‘Cause they probably wouldn’t like it if I moved back there, they would miss us. My daughter is four and I plan to try to take her to Italy every summer to visit. Even though, right now, she does not want to speak Italian. She tells me, ‘I wanna speak Spanish’ and I’m like, ‘really? why?’ and she says, ‘Cause I love Dora and Diego’ come on seriously!? I’m Italian and has the opportunity to learn to speak Italian’. I try to speak to her but she just does not want to learn yet. I will have to keep trying.

It is funny thing in my family, there are six of us siblings and none of us speaks Italian to each other, we all speak English when we are together. That is just the way we grew up. Nevertheless, when we are around my parents, we speak only to them in Italian, within the same conversation my siblings will speak to each other in English. We have this awkward thing where we do not speak Italian to each other. Seems awkward to me now. We are so used to speaking English to each other. Must be that when we were young, my parents wanted us to speak English to assimilate better and wanted us to speak as much English as she could at home. She didn’t want us to fall behind and it helped out a lot, I guess.”

Coming to America: Armando

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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.”

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!”