I Had Learned English When I Was At High School Immigrant Women and Their Struggles

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Immigrant Women and Their Struggles

I was born in the United States and raised in Haiti. I came back to America at the age of eleven. Witnessing the struggles of my mother, a single mother, made me more appreciative of the education and opportunities I had as a Haitian-American woman. Two of my greatest accomplishments are learning English as a second language and completing my master’s degree in social work.

Growing up in the United States and adjusting to a new culture was a difficult and challenging experience for me. However, my struggle was less than my mother’s. She worked two jobs, had poor English speaking skills, and supported four young children. Furthermore, even after we moved to the United States, my mother believed that she had a responsibility to take care of her siblings who lived in Haiti. Because of this belief, she continued to send them money regularly.

My mother always emphasized the importance of education. She didn’t want to see her children struggle as much. With education in mind, I finished high school believing that earning a high school diploma was all the education I needed. Unfortunately, I had a guidance counselor who, instead of supporting my idea of ​​going to college, reinforced my belief that high school was enough education for me. Fortunately, I met a professional and successful black woman who became my mentor. She taught me the importance of furthering my education. She believed in me and she helped me believe in myself. Although my mother also emphasized the importance of education, to this day, my experience was seeing women from my culture who immigrated to the United States, got jobs as cleaners, and I considered them successful. So, with a broader understanding of success, as well as some help from my mentor, I applied and was accepted to Syracuse University where I majored in social work and eventually graduated with a bachelor of science and social work degree.

I learned many valuable life lessons during my undergraduate years. I lived in Harlem, NY; And as a result, I wasn’t exposed to many different cultures. When I went to Syracuse University, I had culture shock! I had to learn to live with people of different backgrounds and religious beliefs. I was impressed with the variety of student organizations to choose from. However, because I wanted to feel like I belonged, I helped create a Haitian-American organization so I could meet other students from my own culture who faced the same challenges as me. I soon found myself isolating myself from the various cultures presented by other students on campus. I started branching out and participating in different organizations so I could learn more about different cultures. To my surprise, I found students from different cultures who were struggling just like me and whose parents were struggling just like my mother.

My first professional experience was as the director of a child abuse prevention program. Working with parents was beneficial to me because I was able to educate them on child rearing skills and help them learn stress reduction techniques. About a year later, I was accepted onto the staff of an organization specializing in domestic violence. In my capacity as a senior social worker, I met many minority women who had been victims of violence in their primary relationships. I soon learned that it is often difficult for women to stay away from violent relationships. For the women I worked with, matters were further complicated because many of them were undocumented and, as a result, often unwilling to seek help from any authorities for fear of deportation. These women also faced language barriers, difficulty finding employment, and social isolation that we often encounter among battered women and new immigrants who have not yet settled into American society. Those who were able to get off the hook often found themselves unable to navigate the system and unable to support themselves financially without public assistance. Of those who received public assistance, they often relied on public assistance because they had poor English speaking and writing skills and or were unable to obtain training in a profession that would enable them to support themselves and their children.

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