The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Leaving my comfort zone — It’s OK to feel different in a new country

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

As I look up to see Bryant Street, my mind starts to wonder: I know I’m not supposed to turn right yet, but what would happen if I turned now and “got lost?”

I was running out of excuses to skip school, but this new plan would definitely work. 

It was the perfect plan: get lost, call my dad to pick me up, cry on the phone and go home.

So, I proceeded to walk right and immerse myself in the unknown streets of Palo Alto, California.

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I was just 12 years old when I was left at a school where I did not speak the language, know the culture or anybody here.

Little did I know of all the experiences and fears I was about to overcome by just stepping one foot in the hallway of my new school.

My family and I first moved to Palo Alto back in 2013, a small city in the Bay Area. 

I spoke no English at all. 

I’d taken a few English classes back home, but my understanding was so low I could barely ask where the bathroom was. 

I benefited from the English as a second language program and was put in different English and history classes. I also had a teacher assistant who spoke Spanish for me in all my other ones. 

Her name was Ana. I was grateful for her patience and kindness, and was relieved to know that she would be by my side for the whole year. 

But as I sat next to Ana on my first day of class, everyone’s eyes turned right at me. 

I was the center of attention.

It was like forgetting the lines while performing on stage in front of some big Hollywood directors.

I saw their curious facial expressions, but I felt frustrated since I could only communicate with those who spoke at least a little Spanish.

After school I realized the long journey I was about to experience — an adventure filled with frustration, stress, and tears.

I was the only one not catching up with friends about my summer or taking group selfies. I would just walk to my bike and go home.

But as the days went by I met amazing people who tried their best to communicate with me.

Making friends was a big challenge, and to this day I’m grateful for everyone I met in my first year in an American middle school. 

But I was frustrated that I felt so scared.

I was scared of raising my hand in class or starting a conversation with someone. I stopped stating my opinion because I knew I wouldn’t be able to express my feelings as strongly as I wanted.

I felt weak.

To this day, I still feel weak sometimes.

It’s been seven years since I first moved to the United States and I still have moments where I feel like I don’t fit in. 

But I realized it’s OK to not fit with the standard. It’s OK to look, speak and act differently. 

It’s not a matter of fitting in, but rather of taking full advantage of the experience and the learning opportunities.

I’ve learned to ask, to wander and to improvise; and most importantly, I learned to get out of my comfort zone. 

I’m no longer purposely getting lost through new streets and crying to my dad to come get me. 

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