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New beginnings but far from home

The challenges of being a young immigrant

We all have probably heard the quote: “Change is not always a bad thing; it sometimes takes the form of progress. And it is not always a good thing: it sometimes takes the form of regress.” Many of us still don’t understand why we must go through changes and always see the bad things about it.

It was different for me because I had to realize this at the young age of 14 when I had to leave my home country, Venezuela, to start a new life full of challenges and opportunities I didn’t realize.

I still remember the day I was boarding that plane. I looked back and said to myself, “This is maybe the last time I’m going to be here.”

Coming to a country with the language and culture at the young age of 14 was not easy. Many challenges came along the way. No one prepares you for these types of obstacles.

The first day at the new school was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done.

I had no idea how the system worked, and I was utterly lost that first day of school, walking around the hallways trying to figure out where I was supposed to go. I found the classroom where my first class was. The teacher started to talk about many things. I kept looking at him with no clue of what he was saying. He began to take attendance. When I heard my name, I raised my hand and returned to have no clue what was happening.

Months passed, and I still didn’t feel welcome or part of the school. I felt empty on the inside, but I was going to school every day pretending that everything was fine. However, the truth was that I counted every minute for school to be over every day. The language barrier, the cultural differences, and the challenges I faced. I also saw my parents work jobs they had never done before and work many hours to afford our food and living.

I spent the first two months sleeping on a couch with my brother in the living room. We had a dining table with two chairs, knives, four forks and four spoons. That was it. That little apartment was the new place I would call home.

At the moment, I didn’t know why my parents had decided to move to America. The only thing I wanted to do was go back and hug my friends and family and tell them how much I missed them, eat my grandma’s food until I got tired of it and never stop hugging her and my grandpa.

Being away from my family and friends is one of the hardest things about being an immigrant. I had always dreamed of graduating high school with my friends, the majority of whom I had known since we were in kindergarten. Losing family members and being so far away, without the opportunity to say goodbye, was my biggest fear. I knew that one day it was going to happen.

Losing my grandfather destroyed me. I woke up that day with a call from my mom saying, “Apa passed away.” I couldn’t speak that day. When my mom told me that, I felt half of my body just drop. I started to remember everything he said, how proud he was of me, and the last hug I gave him before I boarded the plane. I remember one of my previous calls with him, and he told me, “Keep doing great. I am so proud of what you are doing. Always remember you are No. 1. I love you and miss you every day.” Those words came to my mind, and I couldn’t stop crying for the next three days.

Nobody prepares you or warns you about how hard it is to leave your home country at such a young age. Today, I’m 20 years old. I have been living in this country for five years, and I still haven’t returned to my home country. But now I have the maturity to think about this differently. I understand why my parents made the decision to move to the U.S., and I am beyond thankful. Now, my brother and I have a better future and quality of life.

I am working on achieving goals that I’ve always dreamed of and wouldn’t have the opportunity to do if I were back in Venezuela. It hasn’t been easy, and I have new challenges every day, but I’ve always known that if I worked hard, nothing could stop me.

I learned English in less than a year without knowing anything before I graduated high school. Now, I’m working on earning my college degree and playing tennis at Campbellsville University. But, most importantly, I overcame many challenges that have made me the person I am today.

It’s not easy. It’s frustrating, and it hurts. But, as the quote says, “Change is not always a bad thing.” The best thing we can do is try our best and always smile even if our lives feel empty.

I hope to go back to Venezuela one day. I don’t know when, but I know that one day it will happen, and when the day finally comes, I will be the happiest person on earth.

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About the Contributor
Oriana Espinoza Mendoza
Oriana Espinoza Mendoza is a junior originally from Venezuela, but she's been living in North Carolina since she was 14 years old. She is a mass communication area major with a minor in sports management. She's also a member of the Campbellsville University women's tennis team. She really enjoys playing a variety of sports and cooking with and for her family. This is her first year reporting for The Campus Times.

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