This piece is part of our PANpov series — firsthand stories from employees about unique experiences they bring to integrated marketing, PR and communications. Read more.
I still remember the mix of emotions I felt when I heard from my dad: we’re moving to the United States. I couldn’t contain my tears — partly happy tears for being able to have such an experience and somewhat sad tears for leaving everything I had ever known, including my friends and family, behind.
Moving to a new country is always a daunting experience, especially when it comes to learning a new language. When I first arrived in the United States, I was ready for the challenges and excited to see where this new adventure could take me. Yet my biggest fears were the language barrier and the cultural differences I was about to face.
I was on my own as a Senior in high school. The first few months were tough. I struggled to communicate with people and felt like an outsider in social situations. I was spending seven hours a day listening to something that was not even close to my first language and trying to survive the challenges of being a teen during the last year of high school.
Once I stopped doubting myself, other people started to see my true potential.
I had a hard time understanding the American accent and its expressions, and most of the time, people were speaking too fast for me to keep up. I remember trying to communicate with my teachers and understand the class assignments and having absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do. It was frustrating, and most days, I would go home exhausted and with an excruciating headache because of how much I had to use my brain all day. Not going to lie, the first six months were marked by lots of tears and the desire to go back to Brazil, yet the eagerness to belong and make this country my new home kept me going.
I was determined to learn English. I was going to learn no matter what I needed to do. I was ready to fully immerse myself and let the mistakes happen so I could learn from them. I threw myself into this high school world with all I had and decided just to be me and not worry about how I would sound or if people were going to make fun of me — I just needed to learn.
I’ve always loved to write and read, and since I can remember, I have wanted to work with something related to communications. Yet, I was very self-conscious about English not being my first language and thought about giving up my passion many, many times! But it was because of my passion that I was SO determined to learn. Slowly but surely, my language skills started improving.
I thought I would never be able to get a job in communications or belong to an agency having English as my second language and being an immigrant. And as I look back, I feel like what was always stopping me was this idea that I had to be perfect to belong — that I needed to be raised in America to keep up with my colleagues and be comfortable in a social and work environment. While in fact, what makes me truly unique is all the experience I carry. Once I stopped doubting myself, other people started to genuinely see my true potential.
My experience as an immigrant and learning English as a second language has been a challenging yet rewarding journey. It took me years to be in a place where I felt comfortable with my English skills and even more time until I was finally ready to call the U.S. home. Although I am still very self-conscious and have bad days when I feel like I don’t belong, I absolutely love this experience and am very proud of everything I’ve achieved thus far. Perseverance is the key to success!