Immigrant Heritage Week

This week is Immigrant Heritage Week in NYC!

In New York City, the ultimate city of immigrants, we have always known that immigrants are essential: immigrants make up half our city’s workforce and during COVID-19 they came to represent a disproportionate share of the essential workforce in the city. Our city came to rely and continues to rely on immigrants, who also bore the brunt of the fallout of COVID-19. And while immigrants have continued supporting the city as essential workers, they also are stepping up to fill needs in our communities. From food distribution volunteers to those making sure their communities have the latest information and resources, and others who have helped advocate for New Yorkers in the health system, immigrant New Yorkers deserve our thanks and recognition for their invaluable contributions.

Here are a couple videos spotlighting the wonderful work immigrants are doing in their communities during COVID, and you can also read a statement from Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, by clicking here!

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The Immigrant Experience: San San


Living in New York: Then and Now

San San, Class 4.5

I immigrated to the United States from Myanmar in February 2008. I came to New York with my family. We met my sister-in-law at JFK airport. After that we went to my sister-in-law’s house. On the way I saw many tall buildings, a lot of gorgeous billboards, and subway trains. I was very surprised because we didn’t have a subway system in my country.

The next day we had to go shopping. We arrived here in the winter, so I felt very cold. We bought down jackets and some housewares.

Then I had to learn how to take the subway. One day I took the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The subway operator announced that the train was changing routes, but I didn’t understand what he said. When I saw the next station, I was so worried because the station was strange to me. I was in a hurry to get off the train. Then I looked at a subway map and asked the subway custodian for directions. It was my first experience in New York. I’ll never forget it.

When I went to shop for food, the food looked very nice, so I bought it. When I got home, I opened the can, and I had to throw it away. The food inside the can was terrible. Shopping for food was confusing for me in the United States.

Therefore I decided to study English. I am able to read and write now. I can read the nutrition labels and ingredients. I understand what I am buying. I am able to take the train where I want to go. I think that I am more confident speaking English than before. I also got a Home Health Aide certificate. I was very happy. My children got a good education and jobs.

Living in the United States provides more challenges and opportunities than in Myanmar. I like that. But I am still not used to the weather in the United States because the weather is very dry and cold, making my eyes very dry. I don’t like the weather.


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The Immigrant Experience: Sandra



Living in the United States: Then and Now

Sandra, Class 4.5

I have been living in New York since I came to the U.S. six months ago. It was the beginning of summer when I arrived in the Big Apple. I felt excited and not tired even though I had sat in the plane for over 16 hours.

While my uncle was driving me home, I saw lots of green trees, divergent Roman-style architecture, and smelled the fresh air. After my uncle told me that each of those buildings maybe had a hundred years of history, it shocked me so much because they looked kind of new and there was no moss growing on the foundations. I resembled a kid who was eager to know everything that I saw.

In addition, what surprised me was that many teenagers were sort of skinny. According to news articles and other things I had heard, it seemed most Americans preferred high-calorie foods. Now, I think that physical exercise could be the major reason to help them stay in shape.

Right now, the summer is coming to an end, and the winter is closer and closer. The leaves that were green as I reached the super city are trading green for various colors. Some of them are golden yellow, while others are blazing red or pale orange. The air is still fresh, but the temperature has been decreasing. I heard that there is generally a lot of snow in the winter. That makes me so excited because I haven’t seen snow in my hometown.

During the past six months, I have been getting used to the new place and studying American culture. Besides that, I have to get familiar with seeking jobs in New York. Everything is a new start!


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The Immigrant Experience: Martha


Living in the United States: Then and Now

Martha, Class 4.5

My first day in this country, I was very excited. I came with my mom and we hadn’t seen my sister for many years. I was happy to see her again. When I first saw her, my heart started beating very fast because finally we could hug each other. After many kisses and hugs, she introduced her husband and baby daughter. She picked us up at the airport.

When we were going to her apartment, I noticed all the trees didn’t have any leaves. It was March. In my country, all the trees have leaves. She told me it was because we were still in winter. Then we came to her apartment. She invited us to eat in a restaurant. So we went to the most famous restaurant in the world—McDonald’s!

During that week, my sister’s friend told me that in her company they were hiring. She asked me if I wanted to go there. I said yes. She gave me the name and the address of the company. Of course, I wanted to get the job. I prepared everything for the next day.

So next day I took the name and the address of the company with me. I took the train. But I took the wrong train and I got lost. Like a new immigrant, I didn’t speak, read, or understand English. I felt very sad. Then I started to look for some coins in my pocket to call my sister and explain to her what had happened to me. So she explained how I could get back to her apartment.

Now I feel more comfortable because I speak, read, and understand English. Not like I wanted, but better than when I came. I don’t feel too frustrated when I make a mistake.

When I walk around, I feel sad because I remember many things I did with my mom. In my experience, when I have to go to a new place, I try to bring a map with me, or I look at it in the bus or subway station, or ask somebody.


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The Immigrant Experience: Charlie


Living in the United States: Then and Now

Charlie, Class 4.5

I’ll never forget the first day that I came to New York. I came to this city on October 6, 2008. It was a lovely fall day. The sun was shining, the weather was warm. My friends drove me here from Boston.

I looked out the window of the car on the way. Almost all the leaves on the trees had changed color. They were red, green, yellow, purple, and so on. It seemed a variety of colors was painted across the land. Everywhere looked like a huge beautiful picture. I loved this environment, I loved this landscape, and I loved this country.

When I arrived in New York, the first stop was in Flushing, Queens. Because the Chinese who came from North China like to live in Flushing, my friend sent me there.

When I got to the Main Street of Flushing, I was shocked by the condition. Is this New York? Is this America? No, I thought. It seemed like I had gone back to China. I thought I had gone back to Taidong, a famous business place in my hometown. I saw almost everyone had an Asian face, I heard nearly everybody speaking Chinese, and there were a lot of stores, restaurants, banks, and supermarkets with Chinese names. Only one thing was different from China: that was everyone was using American dollars instead of Chinese yuan. Only that let me know that I was in America rather than China.

There was too much noise, too much dirt, and too many crowds all over the city. I thought maybe this was New York. So in fact I didn’t like it here the first day.

Now, I have been living in New York for more than 5 years. I have moved many times, and I have visited many different places. I have already changed my idea about New York. I more and more love this city because I find that living here is much more convenient than other places in America.

Here I can get any food that I like. Here I can do everything without English. Here I can get a perfect education so I can improve my life, and there are many opportunities to find a job here.

So I have decided to live here until I retire.


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