Growing Up In America

Growing Up In America

The struggles of learning English in a first generation household.


I was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and moved to Virginia when I was almost 2 years old. I had lived in a predominantly Hispanic/Latino area in Alexandria before my family and I moved again to Prince William County. We moved because my parents wanted my siblings and I lived in a safe place where we could attend a good school to get our education.

My parents always focused on our education, especially since they didn't have the opportunity to get theirs. So, as you can image, my parents were very tough on us when it came time to work on homework, projects, and whatever else what assigned to us. I was 6 years old when I started school, and although I was very young, I still remember all the obstacles we went through.

The summer before my first-grade year, my dad had gotten my sister and me a new (to us) desk that we would use to do our homework on. I was so excited, it was this large pink desk with two little drawers where we stored my pencils and crayons. Just the idea of doing American homework made me so excited, but when school came around, my excitement quickly vanished.

I caught onto the English language fairly quickly but reading and writing was a whole other story. My parents and I spent many nights sitting at that pink desk, struggling trying to figure out my homework assignment, but I couldn't understand it as I still didn't really know how to read or write. What made it even more difficult was that my parents were also limited in reading and writing of English. We struggled a lot, but we were able to come up with a system;

1. Break out the English/Spanish dictionary

2. Word for word, break down that homework assignment

3. Come up with an answer to the homework

4. Write the answer down, then translate it to English

5. Go back, reread (to the best of my ability) to make sure it sounded okay (this was my time to practice sounding out the words, my least favorite part)

6. Next day, ask a friend to look over homework to make sure I did okay

This was my homework routine for first and second grade. It was tough at first but luckily with time, it became easier. Made it even better was that my parents started attending English classes. They would practice what they had learned in class with my siblings and me. My parents were not going to let a language barrier get in the way of our education, so they worked just as hard as we were to learn all that we could. We grew and learned as a family.

I think back to these moments a lot because although we had many long nights trying to decipher my homework, my parents never gave up and kept pushing us to get our education. It's because of their tough love, their high expectations and their focus on our education, that I will be graduating this May.

Gracias Mami y Papi, esto es para ustedes. Los quiero mucho.

(Thank you, Mom and Dad, this one is for you. I love you so much)

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To The Girl Who Isn't Graduating On Time, It Won't Feel Any Less Amazing When You Do

Graduating is something to be proud of no matter how long it takes you.


To the girl who isn't graduating college "on time,"

I promise, you will get there eventually, and you will walk across that graduation stage with the biggest smile on your face.

You may have a different journey than the people you grew up with, and that is OKAY. You may have some twists and turns along the way, a few too many major changes, a life change, you may have taken most of a semester off to try to figure your life out, and you're doing the best you can.

Your family and your friends don't think less of you or your accomplishments, they are proud of your determination to get your degree.

They are proud of the woman you are becoming. They don't think of you as a failure or as someone any less awesome than you are. You're getting your degree, you're making moves towards your dreams and the life that you have always wanted, so please stop beating yourself up while you see people graduating college on time and getting a job or buying a car.

Your time will come, you just keep doing what you need to do in order to get on that graduation stage.

Your path is set out for you, and you will get there with time but also with patience. The place you're at right now is where you are supposed to be. You are going to thrive and you are going to be the best version of you when you graduate and start looking for a company that you will be proud to work for. Don't look on social media and feel less than, because at least you're still working towards your degree that you are finally passionate about. You will be prepared. You will be ready once the time comes and you cross the stage, move away, and start your journey in whatever field you're going into.

Don't question yourself, and be confident in your abilities.

With love,

A girl who isn't graduating on time

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College Can Be Difficult, But Trust Yourself, Girl

Life can throw you curveballs sometimes, and times can get tough, but it is SO important to pick yourself up and trust that you can do anything.


I'll be honest, this school year was one of the hardest years of my life. There were lots of moments throughout the year that I just wanted to go home and get away from it all. I had to be reminded that I have been raised to try as hard as you possibly can, and I was doing that. It took some determination and time, but I didn't give up.

No matter how bad I felt, I stayed and persevered.

Now that I am home for the summer, I have been reminiscing on the past two semesters of school. At the beginning of the school year, I had a much different idea of how it would go. It was going to be "my year," but somehow while the year was going on, I felt that I had been completely wrong. It's easy to come to quick conclusions when life doesn't exactly go your way. Conclusions like "this year has been the worst year ever" and "I can never get a break" were often popping up in my head. My grades weren't where I wanted them, and I was surprised by a lot of occurrences that I never expected to happen (imagine a wild ride). I found out who my true friends are and who I could rely on, and luckily, my circle only grew. Being extremely extroverted, it was hard for me to get out and just do something. Being in this "rut" took a toll on me. I had to make those hard decisions about doing what was best for me in the long run instead of doing something just for the moment. Trust me when I say, this was NOT easy at all.

Through all the tears and change all around me, I decided to proceed to the finish line because I am NOT a quitter.

I decided that it was time for me to allow myself to fully, undeniably be me. I wanted to start doing the little things I enjoy again like working out, taking pictures, and simply just going out to do anything. I started forcing myself to take any opportunity that came my way, and it helped. One of the things that brought me so much joy was kickboxing – talk about therapeutic, people! Kickboxing at least three times a week helped my mood shift so much, and it was a start to seeing me again. I am so blessed with friends who would come over at, literally, any time of the day. Spending time with them helped me more than they could ever know. We did anything from just hanging out in my living room to splurging on a fun dinner. Through everything that I was doing daily, I was learning how to rely on myself. Looking back now, I have never really had to know what it felt like to rely mainly on myself. I did get so much help from my family and friends, but what good could their help do if I didn't want to help myself first?

Even though I felt like this was one of the worst years of my life, it taught me so much more than I ever expected. Looking back now, I grew so, so much. I learned how to smile when times get tough. I learned that it really is okay to not be okay sometimes, and it will be okay eventually. I learned that it's okay to ask for help because we weren't made to do life alone. Most importantly, I learned how to trust myself. My hope for anyone reading this, you will learn from my experience that the worst seasons get better. I am in such a good place right now because I never gave up, and I will continue to never give up. In a short amount of time, I am seeing how far I have come and how much I grew.

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