Students face struggles, find solutions in new country

Foreign students share stories


Alexis Daniels

Mikhail Herbig’s German passport (used the day he moved to the United States).

Alexis Daniels, Online Reporter

Walking through the heavy glass doors, schedule shaking in hand and knees weak while proceeding through the thick, diverse groups of people; heart pounding and each beat blending into your hastening footsteps. Going to a new school alone isn’t easy; however, going to a new school, not knowing even a word of the language everyone speaks, that’s petrifying.

Foreign students come to a new school for a better future, education, and understanding of the American lifestyle, and their teachers similarly face these struggles hand in hand with them.

Students move to our country in hope for a new life, a better future, and sometimes they don’t consider the consequences when looking to the bright side.

“The first day that I came here it was a big change everything was different,” senior Henri Lleshaj said. “I had a little bit of hard time to get used to it and the time because there are six hours of difference from where I came from. But it was all worth it to me, because I was excited to move here, the United States are seen like the best country in the world. It’s like a dream to move here for people that are in Europe, and I came here from Italy, so of course I was nervous but this was a big deal for my family.”

“I was excited to move here, the United States are seen like the best country in the world. It’s like a dream to move here for people that are in Europe.”

— Henri Lleshaj

Fortunately, some students could at least become acquainted with others who could communicate with them.

“It was hard going to a new school, not knowing who I could turn to,” sophomore Yousif Fatohi said.”Being alone on the first day really sucked, but I got lucky that the school had a lot of Chaldeans.”

Similar to Fatohi, Lleshaj grew comfortable with new friends.

“About friends, I was able to make some of them thanks to the student that tutored me English and showed me the school; and me meeting some people in my other classes that spoke Albanian, but it was hard for me because I’m a really shy guy, and all the friends that I had in Italy I knew since I was I little kid, I grew up with them,” Lleshaj said. “So I felt like I couldn’t fit in, but eventually I got comfortable where I was. ”

However, just the opposite was the case for so many students alike.

“I didn’t know anyone,” sophomore Mikhail Herbig said. “I was so uncomfortable and I had no idea what anyone was saying to me. It was almost like they were the foreign ones and I was normal. Once I realized I wasn’t in Germany anymore, everything was different, so I kind of knew that things wouldn’t be the same anymore. I’m glad I moved here though, it was really hard for the first year, but now I couldn’t be happier.”

Teachers and staff,  such as German teacher Linda Kammann, are taking actions and coming up with new ways to involve and assist those that don’t speak English. After all, having a new foreign student is just as unfamiliar as having a new foreign teacher. Staff and familiar students volunteer time and efforts to make these students feel comfortable, using their personal assets and resources to reach out to them.

Teacher Susan Bernardi has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Saginaw Valley State University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University, with a major in French and a minor in English. With these degrees she teaches four French classes and leads two French clubs for students of any high school grade. Bernardi has years of experience with teaching students a foreign language.

“I definitely think all students can learn anything, and  work ethic and motivation are definitely the key to success, especially in languages, and I’ve had several students over the years who did not initially seem to have a natural inclination to language learning that were able to find success in my classes.” Bernardi said. “With hard work and lots of extra effort and help they were able to be successful in learning and speaking the language.”

Bernardi has drive with her belief in her students, she does whatever she can to help them thrive within the learning environment.

“My classes are always mixed among sophomores, juniors and seniors.  Initially I may try to pair up students of the same grade level, or pair up people with strongly motivated students so they will all develop a better, one on one understanding,” Bernardi said. “If it is a student that I know is very capable of success with the right tools, and just needs my reassurance, I try to give it to him or her. Students also have actively sought my help outside of class, and I will make time to teach them on the particular thing they do not understand. If they are motivated enough to put in the time and effort in will take to succeed, then they will do just that, and it is my job as their educator to be of any help I can be.”

Similar to Bernardi, Kammann “tries to encourage students to use the language and apply it to their everyday lives in order to naturally develop a better understanding” as to make them more comfortable and confident in the classroom setting.

Educators alike have the common belief that all students should be held at an equal position and advantage from the start and individually advance to the finish, and any steps along the way that need to be taken to make the setting more comfortable and better to understand are essential.

Newcomer students and their teachers alike have to deal with the struggles of understanding and learning. Together, they deal with the struggles the student faces; not belonging, loneliness, angst, fear, misunderstanding, and miscommunication.

However, when facing these issues head on, these students can find a sense of belonging, and teachers can find a sense of relief. Going to a new school alone isn’t easy, teaching a foreign student isn’t easy, but when working together for a common goal students can find their way in their new environment and on the path of success.