Program Highlights: English as a Second Language

Categories: Blog

For the third year in a row, we received a grant from the Mercer County Division of Culture & Heritage to provide arts-infused ESL classes to our students. Students participated in an online class called “Writing my World: Reading and Writing Culture through Literature.” Students read and discussed several iconic American short stories in order to uncover and think critically about cultural contexts, human relationships, and the values communicated within them. Students also wrote their own narratives with the goal of revealing those contexts, relationships, and values within their own culture. The class culminated with an online reading of the students’ final pieces attended by family and friends. Another arts-infused ESL course is in discussion with the Division of Culture & Heritage to continue for next year.

Laura S. was born in Texas, but her family moved back to Colombia when she was still a child. But throughout the years, Laura and her family would return to the United States for vacation, and recently, Laura moved back to the United States to pursue her dreams as a ballet dancer. In her piece, she reflects on her earliest memories as a child, and her unique experiences readjusting to American culture. Read it below: 

My Incredible (New, Unusual Experiences, Transformative) Journey of Self- Discovery in the United States

By Laura S.

When I first came to the United States I was in my mother’s belly, although I don’t remember anything, of course, of these first moments, I understand now that this was a new beginning for me and for my family. At that time my father, Fernando, came to the United States, to the University of Texas, in Austin, to study for an MBA in Business Administration. He and my Mom rented an apartment near the University. They were thrilled that I was coming into this world, and even though they thought that I was going to be a boy, they were pleased when I was born a girl. When, for the first time my Mom, Alcira, took me into her arms, I sensed, even as a newborn, that I was to be a lucky girl, thin, calm and with a big heart.

Even during the first 5 years or so of my life, my parents taught me how to be compassionate, how to be confident, and a courageous little girl. This is something for which I will always be grateful to my parents. One of the best things I remember about my years in Austin is that my Mom always took me for a walk in the park nearby our apartment. It was usually sunny in Texas, and especially in Austin, and whenever we went to the park I could see the shining sun, and the different kinds of people there, eating, talking, and walking, running. Those times made me feel so happy, secure with my Mom. Days full of sunshine and beauty. I’m sure now, that those years and all the happiness I felt, made me want to come back to the United States, as I did two years ago.

The years passed and I grew up, in the secure arms of my parents’ love. One day, when I was a child, they abruptly decided to go back to Colombia, where they grew up and their families lived. The decision was based on a tragic event: the attacks on September 11, 2001. Since then my family and I have lived in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and later in Medellin. But it is true that even though I was not living in the United States, I would travel there with my Mom and Dad and my sister, Sara, for vacations. We would visit amusement parks, like Universal Studios in Orlando, the white sandy beaches of Miami, the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, the elegant capital Washington D. C., and other places as well.

19 years have passed, and my incredible journey has borne fruit. I’m now back in the United States, but now in another city and state: Plainsboro, New Jersey. I arrived here two years ago. My family helped install me in my new apartment, staying for a few months, and then going back to Colombia. As a young adult, I was on my own, back in that incredible place where I’d spent my first years of life: the United States. It was difficult at first to adapt to the values and behaviors of Americans after spending so many years in Colombia, because it is so different there. But I have had no option than to adjust.

Americans like to do all things by themselves. They are independent and really confident in what they are doing, but they also can be generous, kind, strong people who can do everything. That’s something that I have learned during my stay in the United States.

I also have learned during my stay in the United States that you must work hard for what you want in life. For me, ballet is something really important, and that’s why I came to America in the first place, to continue following my dream of dancing.

But even thought I have been dancing ballet since I was 5 years old, there’s something you can always improve and learn, and that has been the case in my academy all this time I have been there. I have learned a lot from my teachers and friends here, and I have also learned how Americans live, some of their customs, ideologies, ideas and other things important to understand when you are in a new place where you don’t know anything at first.

In general, and to conclude, my journey has been like a roller coaster. I have met a lot of nice people during my staying, they have taught me a lot of things, and I know I will continue learning more things every day. God Bless You, America!!!

~~ The End ~~