One January morning nearly 2 decades ago, my then 18-year old mother and 19-year old father made a life-changing decision. My parents, who were born and raised in Minas Gerais, Brazil, bravely left behind just about everything they had in their homeland for a better life for themselves and their little girl. That little girl was me. At the tender age of 2, I was brought over to this great, free land of America. I left my homeland for a place that I would soon call home. Years later, I would be informed about the various obstacles and opportunities that this country provided my little family. From the start, life in America wasnt all rainbows and unicorns. So many factors piled onto the sacrifices and struggles my young, courageous parents faced. For starters, life as immigrants in a brand new country was arduous. They struggled with the language for years. They struggled economically. They faced judgement and ridicule simply for being human-beings searching for a better life. Imagine moving to a new country with high hopes and instead of being welcomed, you were looked down upon by someone who didnt want you there; well, unfortunately, that’s the reality for a lot of immigrants like my parents. Although, not all the new people in this new country were like this, (thankfully). Many good-hearted people gave our family some great opportunities and welcomed us with arms wide open.One significant change in this new world we were living in was the weather. Accustoming to the cold weather wasnt hard for me since I didnt grow up in a hot climate country like my parents. I was too young to remember seeing snow for the first time, but there is one picture of my mom and I in the snow that will always have a special place in my heart. It was our first winter in America, something that will always symbolize and resemble the start of an incredible journey and overall, a new life.When it came time to start school, I was super stoked. The lnguage wasnt a problem because I knew how to speak English (thanks to Dora and just about any tv-show on Nickelodeon, Disney, PBS, etc). As a little girl, I was very shy. Dont get me wrong, I loved to play, I just prefered to do it alone. I was the only child anyways, so I was used to not playing and interacting with 20 other kids on the daily. Growing up, I always loved learning. My parents, who had never gone through such highly ranked school systems like those of America, made a great decision in choosing Westborough as the town we settled down in. As I matured and got older, I came to the realization of the greatest privilege and opportunity this country has given me: the chance to learn in a great education system. I definitely do not take my learning and simply the chance to live here and study in such an educational environment for granted. To make one thing clear, learning or adapting to a language is already difficult itself, but Portuguese is a whole other story. With all these years being surrounded by Americans who stress the fact that you are in America, speak English I got caught up with it and drifted away from my native language. When I was 8 years old and my grandpa came from Brazil, he brought tons of books that were all in Portuguese; these were very beneficial to my bilingual learning process. As the years went by and my parents English improved, it became what I normally spoke at home. My parents understood it, but for the most part, responded in Portuguese, which I understood fluently. Since I was surrounded by Americans and English for the majority of my day, it became natural for me to speak in English. Post elementary school: I faced a huge identity crisis for several years. From the beginning of my school career, I was surrounded by white people. I didnt pay much attention to it, nearly all my friends were white, so it became the norm. However, as I got older, I realized that I wasnt an America, or at least not one like all my friends. It was brought to my attention how culturally different I was. When I started to be exposed to more people and friends at school, I realized that my lifestyle was extremely different than the majority of people around me. I hated it. I can remember just wanting to fit in. I definitely felt inferior to my wealthy white friends who vacationed in Europe and played lacrosse. Although I was too young to remember all the details, I could spot the difference between my little Latino family and your average white family (You know, the typical suburban, vineyard vines-wearing family). I tried to fit in, tried to get my family to do the things my rich, white friends and their families were doing. I Tried to fit in with the expensive clothing and lifestyle, even if it wasnt something I really liked. I remember feeling so different around my white friends and their high class, college educated family.I was definitely judged a lot for not being white and living an American lifestyle. Speaking in Portuguese with other Brazilian friends at school or just in public was always a risk. If I had a dollar for every time I heard we are in America, speak English or go back to your country I would have enough money to move back to my country. Sometimes I would even be embarrassed to say my mom was a house cleaner and my dad worked in the food industry, two common immigrant stereotypes. Now Im proud of who my parents have become, although not high-class, world-renowned doctors, they are the most loving, hard-working people I know. They gave away everything they had to give me everything possible. They have hearts of gold and their professions or education do not define them in my book. My parents worked hard and still do to give my sister and I everything possible, so I dont take for granted what they are able to do for us. But being from an immigrant family, I was not born into wealth, so I was not handed whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted like most of my friends. Im so thankful I was raised this way because it has taught me so much about who I am as a student, as a daughter, as a sister, as an immigrant, as a person. It has motivated me to work 100 times harder and to put my heart into everything I do. Missing our family in Brazil is a huge burden in our lives in America. Personally, I didnt officially meet my grandmother until I was 14. Its still crazy to think that my dad went 14 years without seeing his mother, I can barely survive a week without mine. Along with that, I also officially met my grandfather when I was 8. Unfortunately, the distance has been heartbreaking at times. The passing of a family member in Brazil is very hard on my family. My parents are extra sad, with good reason when a loved one who they never got to say goodbye to or see in years passes. For example, I never got to meet my grandfather before he passed away which was very hard on my family. To this day, I haven’t met my other grandmother and my mom hasnt seen her in 14 years. The distance can definitely be painful.Here in the states, my family has made our own extended family, with combinations of family friends, and actual family that immigrated here as well. We have become a very big and loving adopted family with bits from all over the family tree. What I love about my culture is how accepting and welcoming we are raised to be. In our adopted family, we have welcomed people who were nearly strangers to us who we now consider family. For this reason and many more, Im so glad to have been raised to allow all types of people into my life with open arms. My 14 or so years in the States have opened my eyes to the importance of my homeland. Ive come to appreciate my culture and where I come from. Let me just say, Im very lucky and proud to be Brazilian. Now one might ask, What does it mean to be Brazilian? Well, how I see it is simple. Being Brazilian means your life consists of many family gatherings in which there is loud music, singing, dancing, lots of laughter, and plenty of delicious food. Being Brazilian means fun, loud, crazy, loving, and funny people in your life. Being Brazilian means being passionate and prideful about your roots. Despite the fact that I only was there for the first 2 years of my life, I will always feel this connection to my homeland in my heart. Brazil is where my family members are. Its where my parents, who are a huge part of who I am today, were born and raised. It’s where they fell in love in high school, where they left behind all their family and friends for a new life in the land of opportunity. Its their home more than it is mine, but it will always be a part of who I am. My American Dream consists of a life in which I am not ashamed of my background and embrace it openly. I want to be a living example of positivity in this hateful political environment we live in. I want to prove to people that hard work goes a long way. I want to flourish and fight for what I believe in. I want to be the change that I want to see in this world. As Hillary Clinton once greatly said, We are a country where people of all backgrounds, all nations of origin, all languages, all religions, all races, can make a home. America was built by immigrants.
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