Student Writing: Changes

white and black UNKs kitchen

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!

Changes

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.

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Literacy Review Revisited, Again

Here’s another story from Literacy Review Volume 19, this time by Advanced Writing Class student Lichan (Chloe) Yu

Mirror

by Lichan (Chloe) Yu

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.

To listen to audio of the story or to read more stories, click here!

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Literacy Review Revisited

Literacy Review Volume 19 is out now! Here’s one story by University Settlement Adult Literacy Program W1 student Cesar Rojas

Eleven Pets in the House

by Cesar Rojas

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.

To listen to Cesar read his story or to read more stories, click here!

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Reflections on “The Road Not Taken”

Recently W3 students read the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” and wrote short essays about it. Read a couple below…

My Better Decision 

by Carmen

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

by Xiaolin

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.

To read Robert Frost’s poem, click here!

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Writing Class & Literacy Review

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!

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Remember for the Third Time

Here’s yet another story from Remember, a collection of student writing from our Advanced Writing Class taught by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley.

To Madison, Who Asked Why I Write

Marília Valengo

Today, I write mainly to breathe. It wasn’t always like this, or maybe it was, but only now I realize the importance, for me, of writing. After some time, even things that one doesn’t choose end up being part of one’s life. Therefore, today, I would say I write to keep myself alive. I recognize how bold this statement sounds. I don’t like to admit the seriousness of this subject. It sounds a little desperate, making a confession that strong. I’ve never thought of myself as someone radically committed to a “life or death” idea, but I guess I’ve gotten to a point where I need, once and for all, to rely on something. That is writing. All this nonsense makes me think that I also write to understand life; not only life, but existence.

Yet, saying I just want to understand is very vague; I don’t really recognize the deep meaning behind it. I am not searching for words just to translate whatever I am feeling or seeing. It’s more like modeling, like an engineer does. The more I think about words, the less I see them divided between sound and meaning. To me, words are pieces from a Lego box, available to any child who wants to play and build whatever they desire. I like being this child, writing things and creating possibilities.

I also write to control my own story. It’s my narrative; I’m the agent behind the facts. It’s ironic when, at some point, I realize that as much as I try to keep things organized, I always end up at a new starting point, knowing nothing. Sometimes, I feel like I’m becoming crazy. On the other hand, without words, I would never stay sane. It’s so contradictory. If only I was a little bit more succinct. The thing is, nothing moves me more than blank pieces of paper, a little notebook with pens and pencils. When I read a good sentence, when I learn a new figure of speech, when I see writing so good it makes my mind stop working, I feel this love invade me. It’s like I am facing the primordial, the basic goodness of us all. I just want to do the same.

Here in New York, I have been writing specifically to not lose track of who I really am. As an immigrant, I find it more and more complicated to locate myself while I roll from one culture to another, shaking the moss off my identity’s surface whenever a new aspect suddenly appears. I have also been writing to reconceptualize what culture, belonging, longing, and loving are.

If I had to choose just one answer, though, I would say I write mainly because I love words. I love words until the point that they are not necessary. I love words because even better than them is silence, but without the first I would never be able to know the second. So I write to maybe one day run out my need to say things.

To read more, click here.

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Remember Again

File:Triples-ma-jiang.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Here’s another story from Remember, a collection of student writing from our Advanced Writing Class taught by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley:

Crazy Family Time

Qiao Zhuang (Grace) Zhang

       When my husband came back from work at night, I felt like I was facing a formidable enemy. I put on gloves, wore my mask, carried my two-percent diluted bleach water, and sprayed it on his hands, hat, coat, pants, shoes, lunch bag, etc. And then as he entered the house and went to take a shower, I sprayed everything he could possibly have touched. I alerted my kids to keep a social distance from him. I doubted if it would be okay for him to eat at the table, or if he should just stay in his room without coming out. As time went by, I accepted this new normal. If things happen, they happen. I can’t be like a crazy spinning top, sanitizing all day.

       According to my sixth sense, I got a mahjong set before our quarantine. I taught Jason to play; he picked it up quickly. Irene was like a scholar; she asked too many questions to learn. Mahjong is usually played by four people. As my husband was blessed to have shortened his business hours, I asked him to join us last night. He said he wanted to sleep after eating. Jason was watching his screen on the couch. I told Jason that his father was lying; he wanted to lie in bed watching TV and his phone simultaneously. I asked Jason to set up the cushion carpet on the table, and I poured out mahjong cards from a box. I said we would play four games, so each one of us could possibly win once. Three of us sat down and started to stack the cards in front of us. Irene was still on her Apple computer while texting on her phone. Father said she studied hard to get into the Ivy League. I said two Apples would kick her doctor’s degree away. She finally joined us.

       Father won the first game. I won the second. Irene won the third game. So we hoped Jason would win the fourth, and everybody could switch back to their own screen time. Father put down his cards and claimed he won again. I examined his cards, and found he had too many twos. According to my knowledge, he didn’t win. But he insisted. I took a picture, and shared it with my friend groups. Immediately, they responded that he didn’t win. We continued the game, and I won. I said we wouldn’t stop the game until Jason could win once. Irene won the fifth game. I asked Jason if he didn’t win because he didn’t get the special card. He said he didn’t. I said we would change the rule for him. We would change the special card until he got one. I drank a little. I joked a lot. I observed I had less self-repression after drinking. I enjoyed the freedom of being half-drunk. Jason said, “You’re high.” I believe all of us will remember this special family time, as I don’t recall many four-people moments in my married life. I wish we could create more love moments in our future.

To read more, click here.

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