New school environment challenges immigrants

January 28, 2019


Shane Largo

Shane Largo and her friends dress up for Sinulog, a Filipino cultural and religious festival held around January in the Philippines.

The classroom looked the same. The desks and chairs looked the same. The brightly colored posters and writing on the whiteboard looked the same.

But it wasn’t the same.

The second-grade classroom looked so similar to her classroom last year, but everything about it was completely new. She was in another country, of course. It was all too much to handle, and she burst into tears.

Immigrants make up 13.5 percent of the United States’ population, according to Pew Research. California is home to around 10 million immigrants — about a quarter of the U.S.’s immigrant population.

Many of these immigrants are students who have attended school in another country.

All students know the feeling of walking into class on the first day of school, nervous about how the day will go, wondering whether any of their friends will be in their class. While students experience it every school year, many of them don’t face it with an added complication: going to school in a completely different country.

Though cultures have their differences, they also have their similarities. Being in a new environment can be intimidating at first, but as one starts to adjust, similarities can be seen everywhere.

Largo reflected on her experience in the United States.

“I feel like it is not that different. The people here treat me nicely, and they are really friendly. They want people to feel like they are accepted and welcome,” Largo said.

The first day of second grade for the girl had been very stressful. As had the second day. And the third. But every day it had become better, and she began to adjust.

One day, the girl’s mom picked her up from school and took her to get lunch.

“I would like a cheeseburger,” said the girl’s mom to the cashier.

“Sorry, what?” the cashier said.

The mom turned around to grin mischievously at the girl. Then, she turned back to face the cashier.

“May I please have a cheeze-burg-er?” she said in her very best American accent.

The girl had lost her accent years ago, and she seldom thought about how she had moved in second grade. Her mom’s accent contrasting with the exaggerated American one reminded her of that first day of school.

And although she remembered how uncomfortable and different her second grade classroom had felt, it would no longer bother her. 

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