Yonatan from Eritrea

June 21, 2017

Voices That Matter Most

My Journey to America

My name is Yonatan, I am a 16 year old immigrant from Eritrea and this is my story…

It was a Saturday night in June 2011, it was a party that turned into tears in the next morning. It was our last day in the lovely yet harsh refugee camp in sudan, everyone was so happy for us because they knew what we had to overcome to make it to america and it was our dream. In the morning sadly the car come early and the driver gave us 30 minutes to say goodbye to everyone and it was the saddest 30 minutes of my life, everyone I was hugging was full of tears, i tried to avoid saying goodbye to my best friend who was just standing and waiting for me to say goodbye, but eventually i had to so I walked up to him, without looking into his eyes I hugged him without saying a single word I got on the car and it began to move, he chased the car and high fived me, saying “goodbye and good luck”. The whole village was together and was waving at us, when the car turned they disappeared in front of my eyes forever.

We stayed in Khartoum for one month before getting on the plane and leaving for the usa. We landed after a two day trip, and we were told that we would be living,which i thought it would be a holy place because of the name mary. We got into our new home, not the kind of home we accepted, it was an apartment but it was still a better place than the hut in sudan so we were very happy, but somehow our happiness turned into madness because we had no idea what to do or what to eat or even what time it was, we just sat in the couch and just stared at each other for like 3 hours before a lady opened the door and told us that she was our case manager and showed us how many things worked, how to cook food, use the gas, where to drink water from, how to use the shower and even how to use the toilet. She showed us where the supermarket was and how money worked, she was a real help but we were still too afraid to come out of the house so if she is not with us we don’t go outside, we came here during the summer so we couldn’t even go to school.

As young people with very different experiences, we all share one important thing – we all know what it is like to leave our homes and all that we have ever known and come to completely different place, where we face many challenges, but also many good things.

It was like that for a whole month before eventually starting on August 23rd and that first day of school was a day to remember because we had an earthquake and i was shocked that on my first day of school we had an earthquake. Speaking english was one big problem because we didn’t had any ESOL classes so i had to be with english speaking masterminds that i had no idea how to talk to , they ask me where i am from and i just tell them Africa because they had no idea what Eritrea was. Eventually learning english become a less of a challenge and making friends become the harder thing, speaking wasn’t a problem its understanding them and making them your friend. That challenge felt like it getting worse and worse,when i moved and went to school, they had ESOL classes and many immigrants but somehow i didn’t get into the ESOL classes and most of my classmates were english speaking hispanic or african americans.

The african americans were a different kind of people than the ones in my old school, they were much poorer and more violent than the ones in old school, if they see you weak you are their main target. It was kind of starting to get easier as my english got better and better, but it was still like until 7th grade, when i made it to 8th grade my social life got better and some students matured so they don’t fight or bully a lot. Church was another thing that helped my social life get better, they taught me how to make friends how to have fun on the right moment and to stay focused.

Everyday gets better and better as I learn how to live the American way, I learned many things that can really help me in the future like how to go to college, how to get a career and how to buy certain things in a better and cheaper way. The American life was just if you work hard anyone can succeed.