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When I Came To The Usa Essay

Audio Essay WinnerSejal Patel
Mt. Vernon Township High School
Mt. Vernon, Illinois

Note: This is a multimedia entry that also includes an audio essay and a collage.

"An American is anyone who lives in the United States of America. Whether it is an immigrant or a natural born citizen, they are an American." My second grade teacher used to say this to us when we were in our Social Science class. When I heard these words, I felt an unusual joy. But this joy was not for me, it was for my parents. As I am a natural born citizen, my parents are immigrants. At a young age, I could not quite make out if I was an American or an Asian Indian. My life would always go two ways. When I was at school, I felt like an American. I spoke, dressed, and acted like my classmates. But at home, it was a different story. We spoke a different language and my grandparents always wore different clothes.

At school, I always got along with the other students and as far as I can remember, they liked me. I was treated just like everyone else and everyone, including my teachers, was nice to me. Sometimes I am put in the 'spotlight' when someone asks about my culture and traditions. It is no big deal because it does not bother me. If I am from a different nationality, I will get questions asked about my culture. Sometimes I like it when others ask me about my culture. It shows individuality in me. I do not think there is anything wrong with being different or individual. I am glad that school is not a problem for me because education is important to my family and me.

I often ask my father many times why he came to America. He always says the same thing — for better education and more opportunities. Whatever he has done till today and will ever do is for my siblings and me. Because of that, I do not ask him anything else. This way I do not feel guilty of reminding him of his homeland, India. After a hard life in India, my father came here so he can give his children a good education and not give them hardship. I know there is no way I can pay him back for all he does. That is why I want to fulfill his dreams. He wishes to see all his children happy and well settled after we start our careers. And, I know I can make him happy in many other ways, but I want to make him very happy by becoming a doctor. After he knows we are successful, he will be relived and I will be too.

Education is just one area in which America has opened its doors. America is full of different kinds of people and nationalities. I feel as if I am not the only one from a different culture. Along with me, there are millions of other people who live in two worlds. That is the good thing about America. This country gives chances to people to find their spot in this world. I am just one out of a million. In America people can practice their traditions as individuals, rather than just one nationality practicing the same tradition.

In my family, we have many traditions that are not like the traditions of other people. A common tradition is taking off our shoes when entering our homes. When I go to my friends' homes, I sometimes forget they leave their shoes on, and so I start to take off my shoes. Then I remember, so I just follow them into their homes, like everything's okay, nothing went wrong. But when they come to my home, they always take their shoes off, because it is our tradition. And, for that, I respect them. Also, every night we sit together at the dinner table where homemade Indian food is served. We are vegetarians, so there is no meat in the house. Every night, after dinner, we sit in front of God and pray to him for safety, happiness, and for him to always be with us.

Then there are those special days, the holidays. Unfortunately, our holidays do not consist of Thanksgiving or Christmas, but consist of the holidays celebrated in India. Such holidays include Navrati, where we dress up in our cultural costumes and dance a cultural dance all night long at a community gathering. A holiday that follows Navrati is Diwali. This is a five-day celebration for the New Year. Then there are colorful holidays, like Holi. This is when everyone dresses in white and throws around forty different colored powders or colored water at each other to show the absence of darkness.

Here in America, we celebrate Navrati only on weekends. We call up friends and relatives on Diwali to wish them a prosperous New Year. On Holi, if we get lucky, we get to go to a temple close by to celebrate for an hour or two. This is because we do not have off for such holidays here. It is usually on weekdays, some people have to go to work, and others have to go to school. When I was young, I did not know why we got off for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not for holidays like Navrati and Diwali. As I grew older, I came to realize the differences and learned to adjust to the circumstances.

Although there are so many differences in my two cultures, I never let myself mix them up. I leave my American culture outside my home and I leave my Indian culture inside my home. Sometimes I find it hard when I am stuck in the doorway. I remember what my father said once at the dinner table. He said, "Yes, I grew up in India, and all my childhood memories are there. If something happens in India, it will upset me. But I am also living in America. America has also given me a home, so now I must worry about America more than India, as I live here." So, just as my father has accepted America, I must accept my American way of life, but I will never forget my Indian customs.

Return to America, My Home Essay Contest winners

ESL Admissions Essay - My New Life in America

  • Length: 1068 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
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ESL Admissions Essay - My New Life in America

Unlike other people, I came to the US without any special reasons, except for the

fact that my husband began working here. Before this, I had never been in the US. In my

mind, the US purely was an abstract noun. I knew it from nothing but TV, newspapers,

and movies. However, since I came here, the US for me has become absolutely concrete.

A brand new life spreads out in front of me, which has affected me mainly in three

aspects--language, behavior, and vision.

The first effect on me was that I could not communicate in English. The language

became the first and the biggest problem I encountered in the US, which happened to me

the first day I stepped onto the land of the US. I found I became deaf and dumb--I

couldn't speak and couldn't understand what other people were talking about. When one

of the customs officials asked if I carried any agricultural products, I looked at her at a

loss for what to do. In the following days, I found that many things that were extremely

easy in China became the biggest problems to me. I couldn't understand the TV

programmes and couldn't read newspapers and magazines, I didn't know how to check

out after shopping, and I didn't even dare go out alone. All of these came from the

language obstacle.

In China, I had never had a problem like this. I had my family, a lot of

close friends, and a stable job. Life was very easy and interesting for me. But living here,

what should I do? Eventually, I chose to return to school to study English in order to

adapt myself to the American life as soon as possible. Every day I would go to the

college and spend a long day there listening, reading, and writing in English. I often read

books until my eyes became blurry. At my age, studying a new language was indeed not

easy. But months later, I surprisingly found that I was able to simply communicate with

others, and I also could read and write some relatively complex articles, which gave me a

lot of confidence. Now I believe that my new life will be beautiful as long as I do my


The second effect on me was the change in my behavior.

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With the improvement of my

English, I gradually made contact with American culture, and further experienced

cultural differences. The American culture is definitely different from the Chinese culture

in many ways. Compared with Chinese people, most American people are friendlier,

more enthusiastic, and more accommodating. I can see this from many things that are so

common in American people's eyes. When I walked on the road, I often met some

strangers smiling to me or saying hello. As I drove in a bad weather and met trouble, a

kindhearted woman stopped and gave me help. Each time I did something outside, I

almost always met sunshine-like smiles and enthusiastic help. All of these make me feel

that the distance between people is closer. But in China, what I have seen many times is a

bus driver who has already seen someone running to catch the bus, but still drives away

and leaves the hurried person. In the hospital, people often meet some nurses with long

faces yelling at patients, which I never met in the US. On the other hand, I had been

taught to be modest and observe discipline when I was in China. Being proud publicly

about personal achievement or progress is regarded as superficial and a person will be

criticized. Students are not encouraged to doubt what their teachers say. Instead they just

listen in class in most cases. But in the US, every student is encouraged to freely raise

his/her own opinion in class no matter if it is consistent with the teacher's idea, and

everyone has the right to be proud of his/her own progress. In my eyes, the American

culture is one that encourages self-confidence, encourages people to raise different ideas,

and encourages everyone to be proud of their excellence. From Americans, I have learned

how to help other people and how to express my own opinion in public. Now I am

franker, more enthusiastic, and more self-confident than before.

Third and most important, my new life has taught me how to think about the

world from a different angle. Since I came to the US, I have found that some of what I

used to take for granted is not so reliable any more. When I was in China, because of

government policy, any opinions that are different from the official view almost have no

chance to be heard by other people through public media. People's minds are forcedly

kept consistent with the so-called main stream. What I was taught is that capitalist

societies and the people living in them are cold and merciless. But the truth I found is to

the contrary. In the US, if someone gets injured, the hospital will do their best to rescue

him/her, without any pre-pay from the patient. But in China, if a patient doesn't have

enough money, he/she will not get even a pill no matter how serious the situation is. This

is the fact I saw through my own eyes in both of these two countries. The longer I live

here, the stronger this feeling is. Just like what Su Dong Po, an ancient Chinese poet, said

in one of his poems, "If you can not see the real appearance of a mountain, that's because

you are on it." I think the greatest lesson I got from my American life is that I have

learned how to observe and think about a problem from a different angle, not just from

the angle I was told to have. For me, that's the first meaning of freedom. I believe I can

get other meanings of it in the future

To be honest, my two years in the US have brought me more than what the previous ten years in China did. I have learned not only how to speak in English, but also how to behave. The most important thing is that it has taught me how to see this colorful world with a vision without prejudice and limitation, a vision full of equality, freedom, and love.

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