Finding my home in the city that never sleeps

By Sara Solano
New York, N.Y.

I was 13 years old when my parents announced that we would be moving from our home in the Dominican Republic to New York City. My parents made a bad investment with the family business, and thought that we would have better opportunities in America.

This transition meant the end of gymnastics, cheerleading, art class, and soccer. I had to leave my friends and everything that was important to me. We applied for a visa, and on July 27, 2010, we arrived in New York to embark on a new journey. 

I felt uncomfortable in my new home. The winters were long and cold, and I wasn’t used to spending so much of my time indoors. I couldn’t imagine New York City ever feeling like home.

I entered Gregorio Luperon High School that September. It was a stressful situation, because I didn’t speak any English. I only knew how to count to 10, and the phrase “first-time resident”—a phrase my aunt had taught me to help navigate the airport.

I later found out that my high school wasn’t like most other high schools. I entered the “transitional-bilingual system,” which helps recent immigrants transition into English language education. My insecurity and frustration increased. I felt that attending a bilingual school meant I would never be able to rid myself of the “recently arrived foreigner” label, when all I wanted was to be normal. I wanted to blend in and show that I could catch up with my peers who had been in the United States their whole lives.

Now I realize how many new and unique opportunities New York City offers. I have been able to see places I never thought I would see. The city also inspires me artistically; I’ve fed my passion for painting and drawing through my personal experience of frustration and sadness. Every time I go to Central Park, I feel that freedom of expression. Working as an intern at the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families has also helped me connect with people from similar backgrounds, which has made me feel more at home.

I know that my feelings of insecurity about my accent and relative newness to this country will take time to fade. But I think that those feelings will lead me to work harder everyday, so that I can feel like a Latina who is proud of her culture and background.

Now, I really cannot imagine living anywhere other than New York.

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