How I Learned English and Thrived
La Isla del Encanto. Have you heard of that place? It is a small island in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is a paradise with captivating beauty and culture. The home where I spent the first 19 years of my life. During my teenage years, I often told my parents that I was never leaving my home, my community, or my country. Learning English at school was a struggle, and I was not interested in making an effort. I thought it was pointless. Ironically, after high school graduation, my boyfriend joined the U.S. Air Force; and you can probably guess what happened after that. I left my family, my home, and my country.
Not even in my wildest dreams would I have thought of living on the other side of the world. But, you guess again, my new home was not in the United States but in Japan. Have you watched Men in Black II? In the final scene, Agent K calls Agent J a rookie and kicks a door open. Agent J is shocked to find out that the world as he knows it is just a part of something bigger. That is how I felt when I arrived in Okinawa, my husband’s first duty station.
Soon enough, I regretted my past lack of effort in learning English. Speaking with others was not only challenging but nerve-wracking. It is accurate to say it was impossible. Keeping up with the speed at which people spoke was difficult. It did not help that I would try to translate everything from English to Spanish in my mind. I could not understand a word or form a sentence, for that matter. I was frustrated and lacked confidence. So what did I do?
I enrolled in an online university to continue my education. My first class was English. This time, I was determined to learn; and I did, but it was challenging every day. I know completing my school work took longer just because of the language barrier. Countless tears, sleepless nights, and six years later, I earned my B.A. in Psychology from Penn State University. During those six years, I moved three times and had two children. It has been ten years since I became a military spouse, and I have learned many lessons.
From mistakes I made to things I would do differently, this is my advice:
● Prioritize wellness. Seek professional support sooner than later.
● Choose approach over avoidance.
● Do not isolate yourself.
● Take your time but do it.
● Everything takes practice. Take the first step.
● Find resources! There are many now.
● Ask for help; there are kind and caring people out there.
● Get social and take advantage of social media platforms.
● Stay connected to family and friends. It is still possible when you are far.
● Keep a balance.
● Do not compare yourself to others; follow your path.
● Believe in yourself.
I wish you the best in this challenging and incredible journey!
Here are more resources that I have found useful:
Written by guest writer, Lourdes Gonzalez!