In mid-August, I arrived at Ridge High School for Freshman and New Student Orientation. Sitting in the auditorium, I felt as if I was the only new student in a sea of freshmen that surrounded me. That wasn’t the only issue, though. I could only see what set me apart from those around me: I didn’t look, dress, or even speak like them. These people – my new classmates – had all grown up attending schools together for most of their lives; and even worse? I was starting as a sophomore.
My new classmates had already spent a year walking these halls, becoming best friends. “How am I supposed to fit in? To make friends?” I worried. I felt like Eilis – distant from everyone around me. That day, I went home and cried, dreading the first day of high school.
A few weeks later, the first day of school rolled around. I slipped on my red blouse, matching flats that hurt my feet, and jeans (despite the September heat) and headed out the door. While I knew that even back in Mexico I was not wonderful at speaking English (my best friend always claimed she couldn’t understand me through my accent), I thought I would be fine in the States. So, that day, when my new classmates asked me if I had studied English in Mexico, I proudly answered, “Yes, we had English classes like you have Spanish, French, and Italian classes here: every day for forty-five minutes.”
I ended up placing out of the English as a New Language (ENL) program after talking to the head of the department, which boosted my confidence; but I’ll never forget the moments when I realized… Maybe I didn’t know English as well as I’d thought.
About the author
Martha Sofia Fuentes
Education Marketing Assistant at Bilingual Bridges