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Our Immigrant Roots and Shared Experience

By: Hills Review

For a recent Hills Review podcast project, five High School East seniors were instructed to interview a person with a story worth telling.  The five unknowingly chose the same topic: immigration. Students interviewed family members about their experiences moving to the United States and what it was like adjusting to life here. They talked with relatives from Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Egypt, Korea, and El Salvador. After listening to each other’s projects they got together to discuss them. Although they are all very different people who never got together before, they all have this one thing in common.

PART 1: Trinidad and Tobago

There are many different circumstances in which immigrants come to the US.  In this segment, Devin Kassebaum speaks with his grandmother who came to this country in 1974 as a mother of two from Trinidad and Tobago. In the discussion that follows, students share experiences of their own parents coming to this country and struggling with the immigration process. They also consider the laws that impact becoming a citizen and the dreams of immigrants.

Click here to listen to Devin’s grandmother who came to the US from Trinidad and Tobago.

PART 2: Thailand

In this segment, Gianna Vessey talks to her cousin who, at age eleven, came to the US to a new family, language, and world.  She explains the difficulties of fitting into a new culture and how, with the help of friends, she was able to both assimilate and have pride in her heritage.  Following the interview, the students discuss family who experienced similar situations, personal experiences with discrimination, and the difficulties of being a part of two cultures and countries.

Listen to Gianna’s cousin relive her experience of coming to the US from Thailand.

PART 3: Egypt

Political and social situations can sometimes force a family to make the difficult decision to leave their home country for a new life.  Here, Clarien Nashed speaks to her father, who trusted his instincts and came to the US to find better opportunities for his family. In the discussion that follows, Clarien and her classmates consider the bravery it takes to uproot and move to a new country and how these moves are a true leap of faith.

Listen to Clarien’s father who came here from Egypt.

PART 4: Korea

Elizabeth Park speaks with her mother about the trials of moving to America as a teenager.  After hearing about how she worked hard to achieve both her academic and professional goals, the group expresses their admiration for her and shares their own stories of struggle.  They also provide their thoughts on how children of immigrants are obliged to work hard in order to make their parents proud and to honor the sacrifices that were made.

Listen to Elizabeth’s mom discuss her trials of moving to America from Korea.

PART 5: El Salvador

In this segment, Sugeily Alvarez speaks with her mother about what it was like living in a war-torn country, coping with the horrible loss, and rising above all of her struggles to come to America and create a better life for her children.  In the candid discussion that follows, students describe both their reaction to these stories, the tragedy of normalized violence, as well as detail their own experiences living in an environment where violence could erupt at any moment.

Our series concludes with heartfelt words that stress the importance of being proud of who you are–and how, if we all share our stories, tomorrow will be better than today.

Have a listen to Sugeily’s mom as she speaks about what it is like living in a war-torn country.