I was still feeling nauseous from throwing up on the plane ride, but I had no time to rest. The crowd was buzzing with nervous energy; people around me were hurrying down to passport control, but some passengers had no clue as to what they should do next, I was one of them. I kept repeating the English phrases I had learned in my head, like “How are you?” and “Can I please speak to a Russian interpreter?”. My parents and I were walking around in circles, whenever I asked a security guard for directions, they would speak so fast that I barely had any time to catch up.
The feeling of cluelessness and unfamiliarity made me so anxious that I broke down right in front of everyone. That was one of the most challenging and embarrassing situations in my life.
I was 13 when my parents and I emigrated from Uzbekistan, our home country. We had to leave everything behind: my brothers, my friends, everything I held dear just for a chance at a better life.
Even though my parents worked relentlessly and took every opportunity available to them in Uzbekistan, we did not have much, just an old rundown house and dreams that seemed impossible to achieve.
The first two months after arriving at the JFK International Airport, I struggled a great deal with adjusting to a place I only heard about in movies. I would cry whenever I was home alone, missing my friends and brothers and imagining a life where everything I knew was not turned completely upside down.
But I had to be tough for my parents, because unlike them, I could hold a simple conversation in English no matter how nerve-wracking it seemed to me. My parents depended on me from simplest things like asking for directions to something I thought only adults had to deal with like calling insurance companies about paying medical bills.
As time passed by, I started to come out of my shell. I started attending a local middle school and making American friends. I remember feeling so proud whenever I participated in class discussions without stuttering or when I got the answers right. Even though sometimes the feeling of cluelessness returned, I would keep pushing myself to do better and it paid off. My first fondest memory here marked the end of middle school. It was an award show and I was nominated for some of the categories, however, I did not expect to win. Thus, it came to me as a surprise when the school principal called out my name for students with outstanding academic excellence. My parents were overjoyed hearing about my accomplishments from my teachers. I did not realize it back then, but now I know it was my diligence that motivated them to work any job offered to them with no complaints or thoughts of going back.
When I finally thought one of the the hardest parts of my life was over, that I overcame my anxieties and fears, I received the news of rejection. I was unable to attend a school that I liked which meant that I had to go to a high school I randomly chose because neither my parents nor I knew anything about the process or the reputation and quality of New York city schools. I started thinking that regardless of how hard I worked, I would end up being the same clueless little girl with an accent and irrational insecurities. However, I realized that as I adjusted to my new life in America, I grew fond of the place and could not even imagine going back to Uzbekistan. This thought motivated me to keep going regardless of how many times I fail.
Now, I am a senior in high school and one of the most high achieving students in my school. Although I am still on my path of mastering my English skills and there are times when I get anxious about presenting in front of the class or making important phone calls for my parents, I have become an integral part of my school community. Even though from time to time the feeling of cluelessness makes its dreadful appearance, now I know the extent of my strength and intelligence and wield my skills to achieve my dreams and give my parents a reason to lead a life without the people they hold dear and in a country they have not adjusted to.