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ESOL – English Speakers of Other Languages CLAUDIA’S ADVENTURE

My name is Claudia, I am married to Alejandro and we have three daughters and we are a Colombian family.

Our life in Colombia was fine. We had good jobs, but my husband wanted to develop an innovative technical project and this country offered him the opportunity and tools to achieve his dreams. I was scared but I decided to support him in this adventure, so we submitted our documents to the U.S. Embassy.

Everything went very fast between our decision and the time we were granted work visas. It was the moment I realized it was a fact.

We began the process to move to the USA. The hardest thing was leaving my mom behind, knowing the effect it would have on her emotionally.  We sold our property and we said goodbye to relatives, friends, and to our past life.

In 2011, my husband, I and my daughters of 10, 4, and 3 years old arrived in this country, with little luggage and a big dream. Also, I came loaded with memories, mixed feelings, and questioning if it was the right decision.

I was in shock to begin a new life, especially in the first year. I realized the immigration process in a new country was more difficult than I believed. Everything was dark; I felt lonely, missed my family, friends, foods, and aromas. Sometimes I woke up feeling that I was back in Colombia but I immediately realized that I was here. Everything was worse because I did not know English well; I was unable to communicate with other people, I felt frustrated and silly when I could not understand what they told me. To take a driving test, schedule a medical appointment, ask about a product in the store, talk to my daughters’ teachers; things as simple as these terrified me.

I started looking for places where I could study English and take care of my young kids and in the fall of 2011 I found the ESOL program at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.  I began to study English and my daughters enjoyed going because it was nice and the nursery attendants took good care of them. Gradually, I improved my English, and also learned American history and customs. Then I realized that the program was not only teaching English, but also allowing students to meet and get to know their peers. It helped me to not feel so alone because there are other people who were going through a similar process.

The ESOL program has made me confident with my English; has allowed me to make great friends and meet wonderful teachers with a big sense of service. It has also made me feel less foreign and more part of the society.

I’m very grateful for the support and the tools that the program has given me; the time spent with us, and the samples of appreciation offered to the immigrants, such as the food every Monday and Wednesday; Christmas party and presents, and field trips.

Now, I know that coming here was the right decision, even though we have not accomplished all the things we planned, because I have found more unexpected good things such as learning about other cultures and seeing the world in others ways. I had to find courage, grow as a person, open my mind that was stale and understand that life is made of more than possessions, and look for the things that are more important.

Claudia Suarez

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