Hi Guys and a happy Monday to you! Spring is here in California with a forecast of rain today. I spent a wonderful weekend at Walnut Creek (See HERE and HERE) that consisted of staying indoors, having delicious food, and watching Black Panther (finally!). The planned week is a busy one so keep tuning in (or sign up for my weekly newsletter) to read new posts written by yours truly.
In the last couple of months, I had been thinking about writing this post but stopped because I didn’t want to offend someone for whatever reason. Immigration is a very personal journey and everyone adjusts to it in their own way and at their own time. And given that I may appear to have anti-immigration values (See HERE, HERE, and HERE), which is hardly the case, this stage is one of the most life-altering experiences for you and your family, literally and figuratively. But, know it is a stage and like everything else, you will get through it. So, today, I am going to tell you my personal experiences in the journey of being a young immigrant and how you can learn from my experiences and be successful.
I immigrated to United States (California) in 1995. I remember visiting United States in 1991, where I learned a lot about the people and culture. However, given the language skills learned in school and then gaining knowledge from a childhood worth of American cartoons and television shows, I was equipped with enough experiences to survive my first year. However, arriving and living in the United States for a long period of time feels completely different. There were a lot of new experiences I had to deal with on the spot that were completely foreign to me (pun intended). The fact that I was asked to join a gang by a fellow student and the fact that I was probably the least knowledgeable person in sexual intercourse (pun intended) at the school were some of the vacant memories I hold from that first year.
Then I moved to Palo Alto, which was an entirely different ball game. Still feeling awkward (maybe because I was a “normal” teenager or a new immigrant, I don’t know), I tried to adjust to another environment, a competitive one. While my first year was spent learning how to make friends and forgetting about the ones from Pakistan (there was no internet back then), my second year was spent on navigating a competitive school environment. I remember Palo Alto Unified School District was one the most competitive school districts in the state and all the kids were studious, hardworking, and seem to appear smarter than me. Compounded by the fact that they had the “lanes” system, where students are placed according to their capabilities, it was quite a stressful environment. I spent part of middle school and my entire high school career there. By this time, I felt quite adjusted to the culture. If there was any conflict, I didn’t think it was because of my immigration status. For me, it seemed like a healthy and “normal” part of growing up.
By college, I was a young adult and felt fully adjusted to the American way of life. I had a good few years to make friends, intellectualize experiences according to my frame of mind, and gain knowledge (aka education) to succeed here. And I haven’t looked back since then.
Tips On Adjusting
Everybody adjusts according to their personalities, education, and age (aka life experiences) so don’t feel bad when living life requires a little more effort. While some kids adjust seamlessly, there are those that don’t. The same rule applies to young adults, adults and older adults. There are some pointers I can give you that should ease the process. So read on.
- One of the first things you need to do (whether you have good English skills or not) is learn the issues affecting you, the immigrants and the American people. Get dish cable, subscribe to a newspaper, read news articles online, anything that will teach you what is going around you so you can discuss it with people. The benefits are two-fold. First, you will get the opportunity to practice your English language skills, both reading and spoken, AND you will learn a lot of tactics native English speakers use when discussing personally held beliefs.
- For those immigrants that need a little help with their language skills (written or spoken), please consider taking classes in your local adult school. These classes are designed to teach you the basics of the English language structure and give you opportunities to use them.
Though this whole process can take several years, you need to know that you will be making new connections with people and fighting your personal ethos all at the same time and this is part of the learning process. Be kind to yourself during the process. Between working, chores, the legal aspects, and raising immigrant children, allow yourself the time to learn and process everything that is going around you.
- If I could give you one piece of advice that is to build a community of friends. Yes, it is easy to build connections with fellow immigrants or those who are from your ethnic community but you isolate yourself more that way, which is hurtful in the long run. Instead join a health club like the YMCA, where there are numerous classes and programs that teach you skills, improve your health, and give people plenty of opportunities to socialize. If you have kids in school, how about getting involved there? Sign up to be a room parent, organize a charity event, sign up for a multi-cultural food event, teach a lesson; the possibilities are endless. This will boost your immigrant kids’ confidence and you will be active in something productive and healthy.
- Reading is a wonderful way for kids to learn about making personal connections to stories, build language skills, and gain life experience to understand that their experiences are totally normal and something they should be proud of. A good selection of children books on immigrant experiences can access HERE and HERE. For those adults with decent reading skills can connect with novels such as the selection HERE and HERE. A simple Google search or Amazon search should give you more titles to read or look through. Americans migrating elsewhere can gain perspective about the immigrant experience through reading this cult favorite HERE. My personal favorites are HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.
- Kids should WRITE down three words they think describes how their immigrant experience is like NOW. For example, happy, lonely, scared, etc are some of the words they can think of. Next, tell them to THINK why they chose those words. Last, have them DISCUSS their words and explanations with their friends, with you, and their teachers.
- As an adult, focus on one goal to achieve and work on per month. For example, you can start with “career”. That should include making a resume (local adult schools like HERE can help you make them), applying for jobs, going to interviews, and making a 5-year and 10-year plan (See HERE). Then the next month, you can focus on another goal and so on.
So in conclusion, a lot of tips and advice is jam-packed in this post so I hope they pertain to you and you enjoy reading or learning from it. Happy Reading!