Finding Myself in a New Country

Read this reflective narrative about embracing a different culture after you move — this author came to the United States from Honduras.

It’s never easy leaving home. When Andrea made the difficult decision to come to the United States for college, she questioned in the months after if she made the right choice. She missed her family and felt overwhelmed by all the newness. But eventually, she found her place — here’s her story.

Decision-making has never been my strong suit. Growing up, it was my sister who made all the decisions. She’s older than me, and she always seemed to have the courage to do things I didn’t. So naturally, I found myself following her lead. Like in middle school, when she joined the choir, I decided to as well — despite the fact that I would not call myself a good singer. We went everywhere together, and I would hang out with her friends simply because I wanted to go wherever she was going. 

And yet, two months after graduating from high school, it was me who was waving goodbye to my parents, my sister, my dogs, and my home country of Honduras. It was me getting on a plane headed for the United States. It was me starting school in a new country, on my own. One of the things that pushed me to say yes to going to school in a different country was knowing it would be the best for my future. I knew I could use my bilingual skills to help others in some way, and that I also would gain a lot from the experience. So I made the leap.

When I arrived in America, I was met with familiar faces. I was lucky enough to move in with family friends in Indianapolis that I had known for a couple of years. They did their best to make me feel at home, and truly became like family, but the transition was still overwhelming. I lived with them for two months before I had to move to the dorms. After that, it was nothing but newness.

Everything was new to me. The food was one of the first things that stood out to me because of how different it was. The dorm cafeteria food was definitely not my favorite. But even home-cooked meals here are so much different from my home cooked meals back in Honduras. I didn’t know how to do half of the things that I was supposed to. Freshman year was one of the greatest challenges I had faced. I had to learn how to live alone and away from my family. I had to get used to a new language and a new culture. I had to make new friends and form new relationships.

In Honduras, college students typically live with their parents, and most don’t usually move out until after they graduate. So experiencing college life this way, separated from my parents, was foreign in more ways than one. I was a thousand miles away from my home. I got homesick a lot — the thought of hugging my parents, watching a movie with my sister, or eating a home-cooked meal often brought me to tears.

Despite the people around me all being welcoming, I couldn’t help but feel out of place. Because English wasn’t my first language, I was worried about saying the wrong things or not using the right words or terms. I was self-conscious of what other people would think of me or my accent. I spent a lot of time being scared to speak.

It wasn’t until my roommate asked me why I was so quiet that I realized just how afraid I was. Back home, I was never seen as quiet. My family and friends would describe me as the extrovert of the family. I was the one entertaining everyone and trying to make them laugh and feel comfortable. They always said I was very easy to talk to, but that changed when I got here. 

I was spending so much time worrying about how I wouldn’t fit in, that I created a new version of myself — one that wasn’t true to who I was. With that realization, things slowly started to change. I got more comfortable with the people around me and the campus that had become my new home. I started acting more like myself, figuring out where everything was, making new connections, and found some of my lifelong friends. 

I think back to when I sat on the plane, leaving Honduras for the very first time in my life. I kept asking myself if I had made the right decision. I knew my life was going to change, I just didn’t realize how much I would change and grow with it. 

Even though leaving my family, life-long friends, and my home was the hardest decision I have ever made, I know it was the right choice. Now, five years later, I’m still in the U.S., living in a different state, and getting my master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies. I go home over the summers, and this past summer, my grad school roommate even came back to Honduras with me and got to see my home.

Decision-making still doesn’t come easily to me, and I still get homesick from time to time. But my sad tears have turned into happy tears, seeing how proud I’ve made my family, and moving here on my own has given me confidence to rely on, believe in, and challenge myself to do things that I never thought I could. It taught me how to see things from a different perspective and embrace all the changes. But most importantly, it made me realize that my family back home, my new family here, and the lifelong friends I have made along the way are the reason that I am where I am today — and I couldn’t have taken that first step, and the many that came after it, without them.

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