Below is an excerpt from an essay written by Dorina Arapi who attended our workshop at Elmhurst College.* You can read her full essay and others we’ll be featuring at In Their Own Words: Ten Outstanding Student Essays.
My brother Sali and I are in the living room watching Barney and Sesame Street. There is loud banging at the door. I hesitate to open it; my mother always told me not to open the door for anyone. But the knock becomes louder and a woman calls out: “Open the door.” Terrified, I obey. As I slowly open the door I see a blond haired, skinny woman. She is dressed in a navy blue uniform. On the far left side of her chest she wears a sophisticated gold and silver pin. On the far right side of her chest she has a nametag that says, Officer Terry. Her eyes are ice blue and her hair braided in under her police hat. “Are you alone?” she demands.
I am an Albanian-American. My family and I came to the United States 10 years ago to have a better life. I did everything I could to fit in the American culture. Each night the first year in America, I sat with my mom until twelve o’clock at night learning how to read English. I first wrote down every word I did not know and early looked it up in the dictionary. Then I memorized each word and went back to translating the story in Albanian in order for me to comprehend it. I felt like I was an adult before a kid. I never had a break to go to the park or ride bikes like normal eight year olds. I had to perfect my English in order to fit in. Little did I realize it would be in this new culture that I would almost lose everything that made me who I am—my family.