My name is Lenis. I came to the United States 5 years ago. At that time I did not know much English. After a while I had the need to learn. That’s why I searched and found the opportunity to study at the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program. Thanks to them and to their English classes I can now write, understand and speak English.
University Settlement has helped me a lot in my personal and professional life. I am married and my husband only speaks English. Now I have good communication with him. In my work I also take calls and now I’m able to talk and have conversations. I am currently the operations manager for a network of restaurants located in New Jersey. My progress has been incredible.
Thank you to University Settlement for the opportunity and thank you also for referring me to participate in courses with CAMBA. CAMBA helps immigrants in the engineering area continue their profession in the United States. It has been an excellent opportunity.
Today I feel very proud to be here and to be able to speak, write and read in English. I miss the Adult Literacy Program so much!
I have a master’s degree in Marketing and Business Communication, and three years ago I decided to move from Italy to New York to change my life. I have always thought New York is the city with a thousand opportunities, and the right place if you like challenges.
After a year living here, COVID-19 came and I had to review all my plans. Thanks to a friend I found out about the Adult Literacy Program at University Settlement. So, in September 2020 I decided to enroll in this program. I couldn’t have made a better choice!
Thanks to my teacher I improved my English, and I started to feel more comfortable during my daily life. I met not only a very professional teacher, amazing classmates I’m still in touch with, but also an incredible team. Everyone helped me. Mayra and the counselors worked hard on my resume and helped me to be prepared for interviews. They always motivated and supported me. Without them I couldn’t be where I am.
This year, I have finally found a good job. I’m pursuing my career and working as a Trade Marketing Specialist at Swarovski. I’m ready for this new chapter in my life. My American dream is coming true.
Here’s a piece of non-fiction from Class E4 student Silvia Cortes about some changes she decided to make in her life. When you’re finished, take the quiz to test your understanding!
by Silvia Cortes, Class E4
I realized that every big change in my life started with “Why not? Let’s do this!” This is how my journey here in the USA began with a simple “I am going to leave my job as office assistant and put my catering business on pause. Let’s see, why not? We all need a vacation.”
So there I was making government appointments to start the paperwork for my passport and visa, checking on what I should put in my suitcase for the couple of weeks I was thinking of being here.
I was nervous because it was the first time I traveled outside of my country and if it was a good decision to quit my job and pause my business just for vacation. But then again, why not?
So there we were, my mom, my brother, one uncle and two cousins and we made it to the airport and the adventure began. For them it was their second time here, but for me it was all new.
On the first day of our adventure, an accident happened to me. In the subway station, a tired man dropped his heavy suitcase and instrument case from the top of the stairs and it all came falling down towards us. My mom was in front, so I jumped in front of her to block it. The suitcase and bag sent me falling down the stairs, I hit the platform, and my leg, ankle, arm, and head were injured. That was my welcome to NYC. After a paramedic checked up on me and asked many questions about my health, we continued with our adventure. So with the help of painkillers we went to see the most famous tourist places around NYC. I didn’t want to miss anything.
We went to Rockefeller Center—the views were amazing, even for being a cloudy day. For the night my cousin bought us tickets to the Rockettes’ Christmas show. Even though I am not fan of Christmas I had to admit it was a totally cool show.
We went to visit the Statue of Liberty. Well, that was our plan but we got fooled by some people to avoid waiting so much time in line. They took us to another ferry to take a boat around the Statue but it was far away. It was disappointing because the one who was most excited was my mom. She really wanted to be there on Ellis Island, but in the end to see her face on the boat, despite the distance was worth it. She enjoyed it so much, and I cannot imagine her face if we had gotten closer.
After discovering the most popular places, I made the decision to stay in New York. Again I said to myself, “Why not?” A few weeks later I got my first job as cashier and server (among other things) at a restaurant nearby my
place of residence. Everything went good, I was good with customers, and I was everything that the manager was looking for in a person.
Nobody was aware of the pandemic that was going to impact everyone lives so much, so I thanked God that my brother decided to stay in New York too. Unfortunately my brother and my aunt lost their jobs, and I was the only one working. I could not leave my family in that situation, so I decided to stay indefinitely.
The time passed and I did not feel comfortable at all, many obligations came and people started doing nothing, waiting for me to do their stuff. I was getting tired of it, but at the same time I was thinking how convenient my work was. It only took 25 minutes walking from home, and even when I did not have time to eat, they gave me food there. During the pandemic the manager and the owner kept me as a worker so I had the opportunity to support my family by paying rent. It was so convenient but not enough. There were still things that were annoying me, and again I decided to make a change, and in the end I had nothing to lose besides my financial support—but the universe provides. Besides I wanted to take days off, so why not?
One Sunday I told the owner, “Next week is going to be the last for me working here. You have the opportunity to hire someone else and for me to train them.”
That week my best friend told me that she had tickets to come and visit. The timing could not have been better: I was free and with some savings we could go and discover some other places in the city together.
And so it was: we went to so many places, we had the opportunity to talk face to face again, to hear about our own lives in real life and not just from the chatting over the phone. I missed her so much and I didn’t want the time to pass that fast but thankfully the timing was perfect and the decision of making a change was a good one.
Some like it, because it owns beauty. Some avoid it, because it is straightforward. Some even want to break it. I look in the mirror thousands of times before I go out. I adjust my makeup on my face so many times. Why can’t I get the look I want? This could ruin my whole new day. What you see in the mirror is your shadow. When you smile, it will smile back. When you cry, it will cry back. When you frown, absolutely you will see an ugly face. A mirror is only one plane, it has no way to conceal any faults. But with it, you can discover your beauty, experience your beauty, and make beauty.
In our lives, we all like to clarify others’ shortcomings and hardly ever see the advantages. This makes our relationships far apart. When I stand at the crosswalk while the red light is still on, I observe people around me. Are they satisfied with the way they look? Those diverse sad and happy faces can barely conceal themselves. What have they been through? What makes them so disappointed or so grateful? Life contains sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. The mirror reflects this as well.
The house where I grew up was in an urban area, but it was a very large house with four rooms and a backyard that was also really large. My mom loved animals, but at one time, things got out of control. We had two cats and two dogs. Then, in the same year, they all agreed to get pregnant. The cat had four kittens, and the dog had three puppies. We had eleven pets now in the house. You can’t imagine the noise the dogs made barking and the cats made running on the roof every night.
Since then, I haven’t wanted to have animals anymore.
In November 2010, my best friend was in trouble. He was going through a very difficult time, and asked me for help. He was always there for me in my worst moments, he was always a support, and now he needed me.
I was living in another city, eight hours away from him. I asked for permission at my job, but my boss denied it. He really has been the worst boss I have ever had.
So, I found myself between a rock and a hard place. I had two paths; one of them was to help my friend and lose my job, and the other path was, to keep my job and fail the person who had helped and supported me the most.
At the end, the balance tipped towards friendship.
I went to help my friend, and during that week that I was with him, I met who is now my current husband. He was on vacation in Honduras in those days. It was love at first sight!!
From that day until today, I think that having taken that path has been one of the best decisions of my life. Having been loyal to a good friendship it rewards me with the life that I now have. I am not only married to a wonderful man who brought me to this great country, but also I had my lovely son with him.
My life took a 360-degree turn, and I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if I had chosen the other path.
On Robert Frost’s Poem
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is a reflection of our lives because we are always faced with choices in our lives. Choosing between the forks in the road in the woods is like choosing between different directions in life.
When I was about 20 years old I was faced with two different paths in life, whether to stay in my native country, or to broaden my horizons by getting out of my country and continue my education. Finally, I chose to immigrate to the United States to study, which put me on a very different path than my friend. Using English as a language of study was an adventure for me.
Nowadays, I am struggling to finish my college assignments and trying hard to keep myself on track just like my other classmates, who are the native English speakers. I agree that no matter which path you take, you will always regret not taking the other one. Sometimes I wonder if the path of immigrating for education will lead to success at the end, or if I stay in my own country will be a better development of career. But I know I should not regret or complain, but I should take responsibility for my choice and do my best to finish this path I chose.
Just sharing a class photo with you of our Advanced Writing Class which is taught on Fridays by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley. In this class, students read, share, and discuss their writing. NYU Gallatin publishes a yearly Literacy Review of writing from adult education students around New York City. Literacy Review Number 19 will be available later this spring, and several University Settlement Adult Literacy Program students will have their writing published in it. It will be available in print on a limited basis and also online – so in the meantime check out Literacy Review Number 18 by clicking here or on the image below. There’s audio too!