The Golden Gate

January 7, 2010
By , Fairfield, CT
How does it feel to be different from everyone else?

I asked myself this question, every morning, waking up and looking outside throught the windows. I was in my country, France, and so far I had never lived anywhere else on the globe. I knew I would not see it again for many months, and the next time I take a plane to Paris I would be a visitor. Have you ever felt like an outsider? That’s the way it seemed like when I traveled back there the past summer. After all, it was my old home...I had my family, childhood friends, and routine for the holidays there! I moved a lot through France in my life. I was never afraid of feeling different, because it was the same language and culture anywhere.
So for both good and bad reasons, we left everything we knew and headed for a new adventure.

August 27th, 2008
It was early in the morning as the light pierced through the rented car’s windows. I remember myself falling asleep on my sisters’ laps, listening to my dad giving us advice about the day coming.“-Don’t worry it will be great. Don’t forget that we love you.” He said. It made me feel nervous. We were driving out of the hotel we were staying in until the place we were buying had some work done. We had neither our own house nor car, and the only thing I really wanted was to go home...but where was home?

In 2 minutes I’d be in that school, talking to strangers, and looking different from anyone else. 92 seconds, the GPS kept telling us the time remaining until destination. 26 seconds. I was worried and cold. 16 seconds. My dad checked if I was still alive and sitting in the car. 4 seconds. The big school stood right there. “-You arrived at destination point.” said the GPS. I waited unpatientlu for the hurtful sight to disappear. “-Good luck darling, I’ll be thinking about you today!” said my mom. When the sound reached my ears, I answered mechanically “-...Thanks, I’ll try.” Opening the door of the car, I let the fresh air hit my face and jumped out, walking towards the two huge doors, which said “-Welcome to FWMS, wildcats!” And here it was the true beginning of a new life.

Living in a new country isn’t as easy as you may think, particularly if you only know 4 people there. I moved here with my mother, my father and 2 sisters (Alice: 16 years old, Margaux: 14 years old). Except none of them could help me in school, I was by myself. My grandmother always says: “-You will appreciate something you’ve done way more if you get no help.” In my situation, I’m proud to admit that I kept my head up the whole time.

“-Never give up, just do it.” By Nike meant a lot to me. It became my favorite quote during the first months in America. It was very challenging to learn new things in a language I didn’t know. Outside of school, I had my family and we helped each other with the language, there was no big deal. I felt dizzy and scared all along during my first day. Passing out seemed to always be in my daily program, as the feeling remained inside. But I never gave up, never chose the easy option, I always wanted to be as good as everyone else.

The worst element of my day was to learn that no one talked as slowly and clearly as my 6th grade English teacher. I needed to learn how to understand them. That morning, my new homeroom teacher tried to tell me where to sit, except I couldn’t get it. Has anyone ever tried to tell you something, and you couldn’t understand it? I blushed all day long, and I will always remember my English class, first period of the day.

August 27th, 2008. 8:40 a.m.
I walked in the Language Arts room late, because I didn’t know its location. Every student in the class looked at me, and I quickly rushed to a seat in the back. I told myself the worse passed, and now it would go great if no one paid attention to me. “-Wrong...” came instantly to my mind. My teacher, Mrs Brown, started presenting me to the class. “Should I stand up? Should I move, or do something?” Many questions appeared as she told the class that I was a new student from another country. I just nodded and kept my head down until the end of class. When I walked out, 2 girls were waiting for me. I remembered them being chosen by my homeroom teacher to help me with my schedule. They talked so fast! I couldn’t tell if they were telling me something or asking me a question. I only knew that they were walking with me to our next class.

The end of my day was strange, as I felt so small. The 2 girls who accompanied me through the day were popular and everyone seemed to know and appreciate them. But again, I had no bases on the American culture. A lot of things were going on in my mind. Popularity was definitely not something that could happen anytime soon. Have you ever felt so far from a goal that seemed easy to reach to anyone around you? It felt heavy on my shoulders. I had too many things to ask, to say and to remember. What was the American style? What expressions did children use? What kind of things did people around me like to do?

Bad thoughts kept running in my head that day. I was thinking about my old friends, starting school with no problems, without me. They didn’t have to worry about learning a new language, or making friends, because they didn’t have to move across continents. I missed them and wanted to be in my own country, with a background that would make me feel safe. Here I was throwing myself backwards.

Days after days, eventually, I would talk to some people about easy things like where I lived before moving, and what I liked to do.

Months after months, eventually, I would meet nice persons who showed me that I was entirely wrong when I first thought that I was too different to get into a group.

My first impression when I came to school was that I was alone against this big, and tightly closed group. But I passed through the big white American fence. Now I am glad I bothered to meet everybody because I can talk with them and be considered nice to the students. The first few months I cried alone a lot. I missed my old life... America was the “big and bad monster” to me. My friends from Paris sent me less and less emails. Internet was one of the 2 strings that connected me to my past. I was on Facebook, Gmail, Google, MSN Messenger and Skype each time I had nothing to do (which came out to be a LOT). I wouldn’t go outside or spend time with people from my school because even if they invited me, I wouldn’t understand. I was a stranger. My family was the second string connecting me to my past. We helped and loved each other the best could. We gave advice to each other and listened to our personal discoveries. We laughed and laughed, comparing our own culture to what we were learning together. It made us become “linked”, and now I am very close to my sister Margaux who is in high school at Fairfield Warde High School (FWHS). I loved hearing about it. It was very different from my private institute in France! Students received better advice, less homework, and more freedom to express their feelings.

Margaux and I talked many times about our situation before actually living here. The plane ride was 7 hours long and we sat next to each other, watching movies, waiting for New York to be announced. I wanted to talk in French to everyone around me because I knew (and hated) that they talked only English. A nation wouldn’t obey to me; I knew it was only a weird thought. When we got off the plane, my sister took my hand and softly said: “- We’re here.” And here it was, America.

Today I feel proud of what I accomplished with such small helping tools. I belong to two “groups” of friends and I love them all. They know what I’ve been through. Now this is home, and I wouldn’t exchange my place for anything else.

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