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: 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: 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: 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: 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!”

The Lincoln Memorial

I got to see the Lincoln Memorial and it was so surreal. It was honestly breathtaking seeing it up close. I’ve always seen it in movies, but experiencing it in person has given me a new perspective. I’m beginning to have an appreciation for architecture and the architects who have worked on them. Astonishing.

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It’s so big!

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So many people!

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Are you lost?

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What a beautiful place to rest.