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A World of Immigrants: Recent immigrants share their stories


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Branham is home to students of group from different races and cultures. Many students here have immigrated recently from countries such as China, Philippines, and Ethiopia. This transition can be difficult because it requires learning a new language, leaving loved ones and making new friends. Each individual has their reasons for moving to a new country. We talked to three Branham students, recent immigrants to the U.S. and have them share their experiences. Senior Jing-Ju Hu, also known as Megan, immigrated to the U.S. from China.
She said that the style of school was extremely different in both countries, since in China students go to school from 7:00 a.m. to 10 p.m., while in the U.S. students are usually off campus by 3 p.m.
“In China we have less time for friends and things like that,” she said, referring to the length of the school day.
Megan prefers American education because students have more time to spend with their family and friends. Another cultural difference Megan shared was the the differences in the country’s culture with food. When she found out she was moving to California, her first thought was that there were going to be a lot of McDonalds, but when she arrived she was surprised to see that “There were more McDonalds in China than here.”
Her family usually cooked meals at home, but she said her favorite food to eat when she’s out is pizza or chicken nuggets. Megan said that her family of five moved to America to get a better education and have a better life, but the transition was very difficult since she was very limited with her English.
Though she had to leave her family and friends, she has gone back to visit them. She said that she really enjoys going to Branham, since it has been very welcoming from day one.
At Leigh where Megan attended her freshman year, she felt excluded and was fell behind because teachers wouldn’t help her.
“Branham was very different than Leigh. Counselors asked students to lead me to my classrooms.”
Overall, she has felt really welcomed here at Branham, and is very happy she transferred.
When senior Thani Naru arrived in America from Ethiopia, he expected high school to be like “High School Musical,” and the workload would be easier, but he quickly learned it wasn’t like that.
He said that the social life was different compared to America’s.
“Back there the people are more social, I understand the people more and had a lot of friends,” Thani said. “At the same time America is fun too, just in a different way.”
Living in Ethiopia was easier for him than here in the Silicon Valley, since many families have to work two or three jobs to maintain a family, have a house, and other necessities.
“In Ethiopia, work and life is balanced very well, while here in America everyone seems stressed out,” he said.
Thani immigrated to California because of his mom’s health. While his mom was living in the U.S. to get treatment and help, he was still in Ethiopia.  “My mom is a cancer patient in the U.S., I hadn’t seen her in 6 years, and they told me I might not have much time with her so I wanted to come and be with her,” he said.
Senior James Lumbera emigrated to the U.S. in 2015 after a previous visit in 2014, coming into an entirely different culture and atmosphere from his home country of the Philippines.
James says he came to the U.S. “for a better life.”
“My parents wanted me to study here,” he said.
James said that Branham’s extracurricular programs such as sports and music made him feel welcomed, which seems is a reoccurring theme among new immigrants.
“I made a lot of friends because of sports,” referring to playing on the boys volleyball team last year.
Participating in new activities and introduction to new communities at school are an important stepping stone in the journey towards inclusion for these students.
Although James is a senior this year, he had already graduated high school in the Philippines; where Filipino students typically graduate between the ages of 15 and 16 years old.
“I only want to come to school to see my friends,” he said.
James thinks that people in the U.S. are nicer and empathetic. James also thinks America is safer than the Philippines, since “In the Philippines the new president is killing people.”
He is referring to the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office earlier his year and has been called “The Punisher” by Time Magazine for his links to approximately 1,400 extrajudicial killings of drug addicts and alleged street criminals.

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A World of Immigrants: Recent immigrants share their stories