Making the move From Colombia to the US was challenging and the journey rewarding
During my first visit to the United States in 1986 I decided to pursue English as a second language.
I went to live with an American family in California and I learned the language from the daily and constant interaction. Not only did I learn English from natives Californians it also helped to defray my living costs. I initially connected with this family through jobs classified section of the newspaper.
My duties were to clean the house once a week (easy!) and pick up the children from school three times a week (super easy!). I didn’t get paid but even better, in exchange for my work I had three meals a day, a beautiful room, a private phone line, a brand new car, and a credit card to pay for gas!
As a young engineer from a Latin country these type of arrangement were not commonplace. While new to me, I was most grateful for this great opportunity.
What else could I ask for?
I enjoyed showing my appreciation and pitched in help and contribute with duties out of the scope of our agreement but I enjoyed doing anyway. Depending on the day or night I’d might help with the dishes, the kid’s homework, or take them to the movies and to the park. It served as a valuable opportunity for me to give back and to thank them, and most of all I enjoyed it!
It was also an opportunity to share a bit of my culture, which ingratiated me and helped me to become part of the family. They appreciated my openness and attitude so much and it became a truly rich and valuable experience.
I immersed myself into my English studies for a whole year. It was an amazing journey. I made a lot of friends from all over the world and participated in many multicultural activities frequently.
Looking back this had been a blessed year in my life. I continued my studies again after working as a manager in Colombia for few years. I not only learned English but I also learned about the different cultures of my classmates. It was a diverse California group who hailed from countries from all over the world which included India, Japan, Afghanistan, Ireland, Sweden and Germany…I learned that Germans made very sophisticated machines to prepare such delicious coffee that was almost as good as my simple-made Colombian coffee! I tried ice cream made from roses for the first time, and learned how to make sushi from my Japanese friend Shizuko!
Visiting Yosemite, taking the 17-Mile Drive in California, going to San Francisco for wonderful concerts and celebrating the 4th of July at the Golden Gate Park were all some of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Not to mention seeing snow for the first time!
But the most valuable part of my first year in America was to learn that all of us were the same, all human beings, regardless of where we came from, all anxious to learn and to share the best of our cultures in such a genuine and sincere way. The generosity of this country which received me as an immigrant in such a warm way will be indelibly imprinted in my heart forever.