by Margarita Silva
It was September 2015 and I had recently arrived in the US with my husband and my 2 daughters (15 and 17 years old) and, of course, my dog. I had left my family, my mother, my friends and my job as a child psychologist to embark upon a whole new adventure.
The day of our first class I felt nervous… When I first came into the IMFFA room, I couldn’t believe I was there….waiting for my English classes. Everybody was so different: different in age, race, cultural and religion but also so similar……it was like a paradox. There were people from every part of the world….. I heard some names that I had never heard before in my life. But beyond those differences, I could also feel that every one of us was pursuing the same goal, the same wish… to improve our English in order to get better adjusted to living in this country.
At first I felt shy, anxious about speaking and communicating with others in a language that I wasn’t used to speaking on an everyday basis. We took an English test to determine our English level. That was also strange, because I hadn’t taken that kind of a test in a long time. I received my result by email… I was assigned to the High Intermediate group.
The first day when we met in our group was very special and I can remember it as if it was yesterday. Each of us was quiet, silent, waiting for the teacher´s instructions. Everyone was also very respectful of the way we communicated in English. Teacher was very enthusiastic, interested in what everyone was saying or trying to say. We studied grammar, we did presentations, we played games…We had fun learning. We also had homework to do.
Every week we met at the same time, same place. This reminded me of the book, “The Little Prince”, which says that rituals are important because they allow certain moments to stand out from all the others. As time went by I realized that this was completely TRUE. Over the months together, we started opening up and talking about ourselves, our lives, our families, and our interests. We shared our happiness but also tried to help each other and provide support if anyone needed it.
I have to say that we also had a lot of fun: we created a conversation group, felt relaxed and also celebrated our birthdays during the breaks. We created a WhatsApp group and began to share our daily experiences: the places we visited on weekends and pictures we took of our families. All of these experiences gave us the sense that we built a COMMUNITY.
English class was important not only because it helped me improve my English but also gave me the sense of community… a feeling that I have friends from all over the world…important people with whom I had a strong connection.
I will always remember everyone who was in the group, even those who left; everyone was special and unique and gave me the confidence to write these lines. I just want to say THANK YOU for sharing this unexpected journey of learning and friendship.