I moved to the United States four years ago. It was May 2006. The weather was great! Berkeley had flowers all over. I came here to learn English and improve myself! My biggest challenge was I couldn’t speak English when I got here. I could understand when people were talking to me, but I couldn’t reply to them. My second challenge was being far away from my family and friends. Even thought I had all those challenges, I decided to move to the United States, learn a new language, improve myself, learn about myself and face all my challenges and that would be the most important experience in my life.
My first plan when I decided to learn a new language was to go to Canada. I had friends there and I would share a house with them. But things happened and because of my job in Brazil, I re-contacted someone who was living in Berkeley for a long time. I was organizing information for a book about her grandfather and I got her email address and we started to exchange emails. I knew that girl since I was three years old, from school. We used to study together until I was fifteen years old. We started to talk by internet and she invited me to live with her for a few months without paying anything. Of course, I would help somehow with utilities or food, but I didn’t have to pay rent, so I would save money! When you decide to live in another country, you need to think about everything you have to pay to survive there. I had to pay for school; I was supposed to pay rent, utilities, food, transportation, and money for fun. Because she invited me to live without paying rent, even for few months that would represent less expense. That’s why I came to Berkeley: because I wanted to learn English and I could live for free with someone I knew since I was kid. I would save money going to Berkeley instead of Canada. In addition, I wasn’t sure if I could fit in any place different from my country, if I would like to be in any place abroad. So, saving money was good in that way too.
Living in another country is always a big challenge. We have a new language, a new place, no friends, and no family around. It was a culture shock. Especially in my case, I couldn’t speak the language, so I believe that my biggest challenge was to learn a new language to communicate. I went to a private school (LSI) for international people. I studied at that school for three months. I met people from the entire world. That was the best experience I ever had. I could see different backgrounds, cultures and languages. Some people I met at that time are still my friends even though they went back to their countries. After three months studying in that school, I realized that three months wasn’t enough to learn a new language and I decided to stay longer than that! I decided to study English, Spanish and communication here. Being here without speaking the language was a big challenge. I had to improve myself every day. I was studying hard, reading a lot, walking everywhere with dictionary. I had to find a way to express myself even though I couldn’t speak the language. My second big challenge was being far away from my friends and family. But I guess that was the easier part for me. I put in my mind that being here was a big opportunity for me and I didn’t want to create more problems. So I guess all the time I was happy because I was living here doing something I considered important for my life. I made a decision: I would make new friends and would keep in touch with my family and old friends by internet, phone and letter. That’s the best I could do, and that’s the best I did. I made so many friends from the entire world. Even when I didn’t know anyone here, I was happy being here. I didn’t feel lonely. I was happy because I was realizing a dream to study in other country. I had a lot of places to see and things to learn. San Francisco, Berkeley, Bay area, California… I had so many places to visit and a new culture to learn about. I have all the possibilities in front of me.
I have been living in the U. S. for four years. Every day, I still have a new challenge. I still think I have a lot to learn about the language and culture and that’s why I’m still living here. I feel like knowledge is never enough when you learn about another language and culture. Every day we learn something different. I’m still not happy with my English. I’m still facing my challenges day by day. I believe this opportunity to be in another country without knowing the language was one of the most important life experiences I have had. It was the best opportunity to improve myself in every single way, as a student and a person. I learned a lot about myself, because I was by myself. I had to find friends, find a place to live, and change schools. I had to survive! I have been learning a lot about people, about new cultures and new languages, not only English, but also Spanish and many other languages, because I have contact with people from the entire world. Living in Berkeley has been the richest experience I have had until now.