Linyu Zhao (Lana) Amount of time in America -- 4 years
Before she came here, Lana didn’t prepare much. Her aunt simply told her, “As long as you don’t get kicked out of school, everything will be okay.” Although she had begun studying English in the first grade, she was only truly adept at taking English tests, not in having a conversation. When she came here in 2012 as a 8th grader, she didn’t understand anything except math class. Her newness and confusion made her nervous, even in the one class she “got.” “I still remember the first time I answered a math question, my voice was trembling” she recalls. What made it all easier was that all the teachers were nice to her and the students played with her.
Some students even went beyond being simply friendly. On her birthday, her classmate Jamie Hicks even wrote “happy birthday” in Chinese and taped it on her locker door. “My heart melted that day,” she says. But still, she found herself feeling lost and describes that year as a complete repositioning, during which she questioned everything. What was she good at? What was she bad at? What did she want to do? What didn’t she want to do? None of the things that she took for granted about herself -- or knew about herself -- seemed solid anymore. Some people would probably guess that she was very homesick, but she says she wasn’t. “ I didn’t feel very homesick during the first year because everything was new to me; I was excited. But right now, I feel much more homesick.”
Now, four years later she feels like she has already found a way to live here and that she doesn’t feel confused anymore, as she did her first year. The homework has increased at the same time as she wanted to do more (she is in the crew for the school play). She was on the volleyball and basketball team, too. She feels she is a part of things here.The language barrier is still an issue for her, but it is kind of falling away, presenting fewer problems communicating with people. She feels she can understand most of things in her classes, which is good. Also, she has learned a lot and she can help her family by translating letters and other documents into English. That questioning of her identity is also getting easier. “I started to learn to just be myself now,” she says.