Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ciao, Hola, Hello, Hi

BING. BING. BING. The elevator was on the fifth floor. I stood there, in the first floor of my brick apartment building in Malden, Massachusetts; my new home in a diverse town just north of Boston. With sweaty palms and stiff legs, I waited for the number one to turn red, praying with all of my heart that a gringo, as we would stereotypically call them back home, wouldn’t show up. A gringo in Ecuador was famously known to be and American citizen with blond hair and blue eyes; but soon enough, the people of Malden contradicted this common belief.

BING. The gray doors opened. I rushed in and franticly pushed the number three. The doors suddenly reopened and a tall white male stepped in. My attempt to make it home alone had failed. “Hi”, said the man. Waiting for a response he stared at me, but no words were said. His intimidating eyes forced me to look down, and for one more time, I wished my parents had rented the apartment on the first floor. I knew that the elevator rides would be awkward and uncomfortable because of my lack of language comprehension. Hi, que significa esta palabra? I had attended a bilingual school in Ecuador prior my arrival where I had learned the American ABC’s and a few phrases that were supposed to make me feel like I actually spoke English. Hi? Por que no me lo habian ensenado antes? After flipping through the pages of my dictionary, I learned that this word was the equivalent of Hello.

Although I had expanded my vocabulary by learning the meaning of the word hi, I found myself incapable of mastering the English language. I felt ignorant in my ESL classes and for the first time in my life, I regretted moving. My inability to communicate and lack of friends caused me to isolate myself and depend on my toys for play dates. Ballerina Barbie became my best friend. I admired her for her multiple talents and I began to master the art of mumbling by pretending I was speaking in English with my perfect doll. I used Barbie as a gateway for doing all the things I only wished I could do.

My family stepped foot on American territory for the first time on September 11, 1999. My parents were convinced that moving to a different country, like previous times, would be a success. Unfortunately, the language barrier deprived me from adapting to my new home, I felt like an outsider, an alien. But I didn’t truly experience the life of an outcast until Middle Eastern terrorist bombed New York City. The country suffered a drastic change. Some Americans began to discriminate against immigrants, accusing them of bring terrorists. After September 11, 2001, I was no longer seen as just a foreigner, but an intruder as well. Although it was evident that I was not of Middle Eastern background, I felt discriminated as a Hispanic. I stopped speaking Spanish at school. Afraid of being judged I forced myself to learn English.

In my four years of high school, I’ve encountered a greater variety of cultures than I ever would have in any other country. Living in Malden for eight years has led me to question my own stereotypical definition of an American. Although growing up I was always exposed to different cultures, I had never seen a large quantity of people from different backgrounds all in one place. For the first time, I encountered Asians, Indians, and African Americans. This enriching exposure to diversity at my high school has developed a greater interest in foreign cultures and leads me to selecting International Relations as a field of study.

I just recently attended the “Issues of the 21st Century Conference” at Bucknell University. After listening to an inspiring presentation on Darfur by an International Relations major, and participating in a discussion with my Social Justice group on the matter, I have come to the realization that International Relations is something I truly and passionately want to pursue. Before the conference, my knowledge regarding the ways in which an International Relations major would allow me to help third world countries was limited. However, after meeting an inspiring example of someone with an IR major who has made a difference in the world just by sharing his knowledge with the students at the conference, I am confident that with my future education I will too make a remarkable difference in the world of education itself in order to pursue political and social change in countries like Darfur.


Elina R 6 said...

Writing my college essay was very strssful. I needed to use is for my Posse Bucknell application so i wanted to to trully show my persona. I had just returned form a conference at Bucknell and it really helped realize why i want to major in international relations. Being able to incorporate that information i learned on my visit was really important. Over all, Im satisfied with it, but i there so meny more things that i would've like to say. But i guess it was good enough because it got me into college!