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Journeys: Immigration Narratives by Auburn High School Students

Las Lagrimas Caen Sobre Cielo

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D.P.G.G. Las Lagrimas Caen Sobre Cielo

When I was 4 years old, my mom left me with my grandmother in Guatemala so that she could come to the US to work. I was just looking at my mom staring at her while she was packing her stuff to leave. I didn’t understand where she was going that day because I was too young. I only understood that I was sad because I really wanted to be with my mom and that I really loved her a lot. I didn’t understand that she had to leave because she wanted to protect our family so that we could have a better life. When she left she lied and told us that she would be back in like three days so that it wouldn’t be so hard to leave us. My brother and I were sad and told her not to leave us for long, and she said that she loved us and wouldn’t leave us. A few days later, my grandmother explained, “Mija, your parents won’t be back for a long time. Your mother didn’t tell you that she was going to USA because she didn’t want you to get sad.” I didn’t want my mom to leave, but she had to go to help us to have a better life. She needed to get money, to work hard, to protect her family. I didn’t understand all that when I was like when I got bigger.

When I was like 5 years old, my grandmother put me in school to learn things, but I didn’t want to go because I wanted my mom to drop me off at school. I was crying a lot and I was like where is my mom? I really need her right now. I want her to be at home to hug me to kiss me. I was crying a lot and I didn’t want to go to school, but the teacher said don’t worry everything is going to be okay. I missed school a lot because all I could think about was my mom because I really wanted her with me. Even my friends at school didn’t like me because I didn’t play with them a lot because I always thinking about my mom. One of my friends got mad at me for no reason and I got mad at him too and we got into a fight and I threw a rock at him. He started crying really hard, so my teacher called my grandma and I got into a lot of trouble. My life was really hard without my mom, without her kissing me, laughing with me, playing games with me I really missed her a lot. When I was sick, my grandmother took care of me and gave me medicine, and I love my grandma, but it’s not the same as my mom.

When I was like 6 years I came here to the US for the first time to be with my mom. It was hard because she was different because I had been apart from her for so long. I didn’t even call her “Mom” when I saw her again because I hadn’t seen her for 3 years. When I walked in the front of the door, my mom looked at me and I felt really scared because I thought that she was like a stranger. I also had a new little sister and a new little brother, so there were a lot of changes all at once, and it was very difficult. My mom was really happy to see me, and she gave me a hug and a kiss, but I was still scared because I didn’t really know her anymore. My mom starting talking to me like “Hey, let’s go buy some new clothes because you look dirty. You have been wearing those clothes since Guatemala.” I didn’t answer her because I still felt like I was talking to a stranger. I went running to the bathroom crying.

I didn’t call her Mom for almost a month because it felt strange. Then, my mom started telling me her story about why she came here to the US and left me and my brother behind. She told me how much she loved me every day and told me her story about why she left me three years ago, so I started to trust her again. We spent more time together and became closer, and I began to think of her as my mother again. Now that I’m older, I appreciate everything that my mom did for me, and I understand why she had to leave. I am happy that I am close with my mom now and that my family is together in the US where it is safe and we can take care of each other.

 A figure walks away with a suitcase down a road towards mountains. A second person sits on the ground with their head in their hands.

English, I Don’t Know You

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D.K. English, I Don’t Know You

I moved to the US last August. It has been less than a year since I came to America.

When I first came to the US, I didn’t understand English. I knew English, but American English was different from what I learned in school. In addition, I was panicked and scared about being in a strange situation. I felt like a dumb person because I didn’t speak.

On the first day of school, I entered my first class at Auburn High School, and the teacher said to me “Good morning! How are you? Are you a new student?” But it was so fast that it was difficult to understand, and it was different than the English that I practiced in Korea. I was nervous because I didn’t know what he was saying and couldn’t answer. So I just smiled without answering him.

When I did group work, I didn’t know what they said to me and what I had to do. So, I just wrote answers on the paper for the students in my group. I felt really bad that I didn’t know what was going on. I wanted to say something, but I was too afraid that I would say something wrong.

That experience made me want to study English so hard.

Now, I can speak English without fear.

A painting of two students in a classroom. There are three question marks above one student's head and squiggly lines and the words "Hi" and "Me" between the students.

A birds-eye view of a high school and soccer field

New Home

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D.D.F. New Home

When I came to the US, it was really difficult at first.  School was really hard because I didn’t know any English when I moved here. I was used to being independent, and here I had to learn to fit into a new family and to follow all the new rules at school.

Later on, it was all right living in the US because I learned a little bit more English. It helped because people are really nice here compared to in Ukraine. In Ukraine, people don’t say hi to you or talk to you. Schools here are also much better than in Ukraine because we have longer classes and it gives us a little more time to learn more stuff.

One thing that really helped me adjust to living in the US and going to school here was playing soccer because l made a lot of friends. I decided to paint a soccer field because that is where I feel most at home and comfortable in this country.  Soccer was also difficult at first because I had to speak English to my teammates to ask for the ball, and I was scared that they would make fun of me for the way I talked.  But they have been really nice, and now my teammates are some of my best friends. I enjoy spending time with the guys on my team. It’s a lot of fun when we have away games because we play cards on the way back home after the game, and we make fun of each other a lot. That’s what it makes a good team to do all those things. Soccer is important to me because that is the only thing I have fun with, and it’s really interesting.

Playing soccer in the US, I also learned a lot about what it means to play on a real team. In Ukraine, I always just played pick up, and I didn’t really know how to depend on my teammates. We were just a lot of individuals on the same team. When I play on a team for school, it helps me a lot because I learn a lot about teamwork, and it makes me a better player.

A birds-eye view of a high school and soccer field

An abstract painting of an airplane window

Challenge

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D.A.F. Challenge

My first year in the US was so hard. I had a lot of stresses. When I was in the airplane coming to the US for the first time, I felt sad and mad at the same time and I started missing my friends. When I started school, I didn’t have any friends, and I didn’t speak English, so everything was a big challenge in my life. My first year in school was so hard, and I missed my friends a lot because they were so far away from me. It hurt when I would see all the girls and boys at the junior high talking and always hanging out with friends because I didn’t have many friends at the time. I have always cared a lot about my friends, and they are so important in my life, so it was really hard to be so far away from them.

I also had a difficult time with all the new rules in school. In Ukraine, I could do whatever I wanted. But here, there were rules that I didn’t understand because I didn’t speak English. One time, when I was at the junior high, I just wanted to go outside and be alone because I felt so overwhelmed all the time. So I left the cafeteria during lunch, and a teacher told me to go back, but I did not really understand at that time because I didn’t speak much English. So l said that I didn’t want to be in the cafeteria and I went and sat outside. Like two minutes later, a police officer came up to me, and he was really mad. He said I needed to come with him and he took me to the principal’s office, and the principal told me that I couldn’t leave by myself and that I needed to always be with a teacher and listen when they told me to do something. This was my first time getting in trouble in school, and I didn’t really understand what was happening at the time.

But now, everything is great. I have a lot friends, and l know almost everyone in school. I speak a lot more English now, my grades are pretty good, and I try my best in all my classes to make my life here easier.

An abstract painting of an airplane window

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