Whether it was grade, middle or high school, most of us remember our first day at a new school. The feelings of nerves, anticipation and excitement all felt at once as one walked the hallways of a school for the first time. Even scarier is the idea of moving to a new city and switching schools. Having to leave behind friends, family and the familiarity of one place can be intense. Now imagine, if you moved not only to a new place, but a whole new country… Any kind of change, especially moving, can be daunting and a challenge. I wrote this short story to reflect on my experience as I attended an American suburban middle school for the first time ever. I think of this story as a snippet into culture shock setting in as I had been in the States for about a month.
You’re sitting in the back, in the fluorescent-lit room in social studies class, or so they told you, on your first day of middle school. There are rows of pupitres lined to your left and right, filled with other students. There is a young 20something lady with yellow hair, pale skin and blue eyes spewing out gibberish. You’ve never seen someone with those features, you notice. She looks bland and boring to you. You figure this is the American look... But your attention is fixated on the guy at the front of your own row. His back and shoulders are massive. He is wearing a sea green t-shirt and the size of his body is monstrous. You’ve never seen anything like it! Is he supposed to be my age? You ask yourself, bewildered. Your eyes have never seen such an overweight creature in your life. At least someone your age. You’re disturbed. Years later, you realize how fitting that was. Having Jake as your classmate was America’s way of saying “welcome!” You try to read what Ms. Blair, the teacher, is writing on the board but it’s hopeless. Letters put together that make no sense to you. It could very well be hieroglyphics as far as you’re concerned… Looking at the foreign surroundings, the deep understanding that this is your new reality sinks in. With a heavy heart you start to accept that this is your life now and that you must be strong because this is good for you. That daddy didn’t work all those years, living 3 months in Santa Rosa and 3 months in Plano, for nearly 20 years, for you to be sad about moving pa’l otro lado, to the majestic north, to the United States of America. Even though you’re 12, you understand the challenge that lies ahead. That this move has already altered the course of your life forever, but for the better. And although you have no idea what this lady teacher is saying and everyone looks like they’re 15 rather than 12, and you’re scared shitless, you know deep down this will be good, eventually. As you pick up your books to go on to your next class, you hope one day you’ll be able to look back and laugh at the fact that your world is now turned upside down.
Have you ever moved or experienced other drastic changes? How did you cope?