Dear American...HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?


Dear American…

I have no words to explain how amazed I am by the technology, the infrastructure, the university campuses, the innovations, the level in sports, the facilities, and the pace of productivity in your country. YOUR COUNTRY TRULY IS ONE OF A KIND. I mean for me,  a woman that was born and raised in Greece with Nigerian parents, I have nothing  to compare to your country…at least nothing that the eyes can see or the hands can feel.

Oh, pardon me, Greece is a small country located in Southern Europe and people there speak Greek not “Grecian”. Nigeria, on the other hand, is located in Western Africa and no I don’t speak Nigerian. There are different tribes in Nigeria and they speak different languages, so I speak Yoruba. So, yes, Africa is a continent, not a country.

 Anyway, I came to your country to pursue an education and build on my basketball skills and knowledge. Everything is so beautiful here, but it is also very hard sometimes. Of course I knew that I was leaving home to go to a very far place, I can’t complain about that. I did expect the food to be different, “fast” to be precise, y’all don’t really like to cook a lot oute here, but that still okay, I will adjust to that too. Man, I have to say, despite all the english lessons I too and attending an American high school, it is still really tough for me to grasp on everything you say when you speak. The words come out so fast. A lot of times, I have things say, but I keep them to myself. You know, it starts to get to you after a while, when everyone keeps laughing at your accent or the choice of words you use to express yourself.

I cannot be mad though, I came to your country, so I am willing to learn, adapt, and compromise whenever I need to.  If I don’t like it, I should go back to my country right? This is America…yeah, I know.  You see, for everyone outside your country, we see America and admire everything about it; the hustle, the work ethic, the integration of competition in your culture, time management, efficiency, just about everything.

“THE AMERICAN DREAM”, WE SAY. SO, WHAT DO WE DO? WE PLAN AND WORK HARD FOR YEARS AND LITERALLY ALMOST ALWAYS BECOME ONE OF THE BEST TO DO WHAT WE DO IN OUR COUNTRIES, JUST TO BE A LEGITIMATE CANDIDATE TO ENTER YOURS. NOT EVERYBODY MAKES IT. We watch movies, documentaries, we read, we learn your history, learn slangs, try to copy your style, just for us to feel like we belong and/or we have a chance to fit in.

SO, WE TRY OUR ABSOLUTE BEST! We get there, and the moment we show up, there is already something that is being talked about or better said criticized about us. From the way that we look to the way we fall asleep or how we choose to study or how often we shower, anything and everything is just criticized. DO NOT GET ME WRONG, WHEN WE SEE DIFFERENT WE REACT TOO! HOWEVER, IT IS ONE THING TO SEE DIFFERENT AND ASK ABOUT IT, LEARN ABOUT IT OR JUST FIGURE IT OUT AND IT IS ANOTHER THING TO TALK DOWN ON IT.

 It is one thing to say, “Oh, what is that?” and it is another thing to say, “NOW WHO TAUGHT HOW TO DO IT LIKE THAT? WHY WOULD EVEN THINK THAT THAT IS THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT? IN AMERICA THIS IS HOW WE….” NO, STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I AM HAVING A LONG DAY. I AM SO FAR AWAY FROM HOME, MY FAMILIY IS  STILL SLEEPING DUE TO THE TIME DIFFERENCE, IT IS MY NAME DAY TODAY AND IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER OUT HERE, AND I JUST DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANYTHING ABOUT HOW I AM DOING EVERYTHING WRONG BECAUSE I AM NOT DOING IT THE AMERICAN WAY.

You see, when we watch shows or documentaries about the United States, we see people from all kinds of places. We hear different languages, see various cuisines, styles; we see the definition of a melting pot. So, WE FEEL WELCOMED! We expect that one of the largest and most populous countries in the world that receives huge numbers of immigrants would encourage its citizens to learn, not learn more, just learn about other countries in the world. Learn something about all the different kind of cultures and originis and traditions that exist in your country. BUT THAT IS SO FAR FROM REALITY!

We get here and then you spend most of the time telling us how everything we have been taught in our culture is wrong, not different, but wrong. Not unique, but problematic. Why? Because is not done the American way.

And of course, this does not apply to every single American. However, even if it doesn’t apply to you, I am sure you can think of someone that it applies to. HELP THEM EDUCATE THEMSELVES AND MATURE. Help your fellow citizen realize that there is more to the world than just 50 states. Matter of fact, tell them to picture this scenario:

Imagine you have to leave your parents, your childhood friends, your girlfriend or boyfriend, and everything you know and you are familiar with just because you want to pursue the highest level of education and challenge yourself(sports, acting, career).

Now, your parents cannot show up for you, when you need them. You cannot just cry in your best friend’s or siblings’ arms and vent. No one you know is watching your games or  no one around you has seen you play to the best of your abililty. Your boyfriend or girlfriend is no where close. Your favorite food is not even in the picture. The gestures or hand expressions you are used to using? Forget them! Because they are probably meaningless or mean something unusual in this new place that you are in!

Oh, you have ran out of the x-product, but you don’t  really know where to go to purchase it. You ask someone and they respond, “Did you really not know that? So, y’all don’t have Walmart in Greece? What? Y’all still ride horses over there?” You have an amazing idea about a class project, but no one will ever find out because it is so hard for you to express yourself now…. THE LANGUAGE IS SO CHALLENGING! You go from being a social butterfly to being an introvert because you are so worried that someone may laugh at how you go about things. So now, you just choose to stay in all the time. Answer this:

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?

What if you had to deal with all this on a daily basis in addition to the difficulties of school, work, practice, rehearsal or anything that you are into? How would you perform in your dance shows? How would you play? How would you be able to concentrate in class or do well in class when you don’t even want to ask questions anymore?

DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY BROKEN, DEPRESSED, LOST, DISRESPECTED? I AM TALKING ABOUT TALENTED PEOPLE LEAVING BECAUSE THEY ARE HURT! THEY ARE NOT HURT PHYSICALLY, BUT EMOTIONALLY/MENTALLY!

I am not saying go and learn the geography of the world or learn every single tradition out there. NO! ALL I AM ASKING IS FOR YOU TO TAKE SOME TIME TO JUST EXPLORE, EDUCATE YOURSELF JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE ON HOW THINGS ARE DONE OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING, BUT YOU CAN AT LEAST WORK ON HOW YOU APPROACH AND REACT TO OTHER PEOPLE’S DIFFERENCES. 

WE WORK SO HARD TO MAKE IT TO YOUR COUNTRY, AND IT IS WORTH IT; YOU ARE AHEAD IN ALMOST EVERY ASPECT! Every aspect but one,  “Cultural differences!” And for you to be the country you are, with all nationalities that live in and enter your country so often, IT IS UNACCEPTABLE  AND A MAJOR PROBLEM!

So, dear American, thank you for reading this, NOW PLEASE GO AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Next time you come across someone foreign, ask “How?” and not “Why?” Embrace the variety of cultures you are so blessed to experience and learn from them. Please, don't judge them; it hurts! If I did not love basketball as much as I do, I would have left too! It's just too much to deal with, when you are so young. Also, think of others, that come from a troubled home and background, just like me. We come here to escape, make a difference, improve, and grow, not to be constantly criticized and/or laughed at!

Remember your country is ONE OF A KIND, NOT THE ONLY KIND, NOT THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!

A special thank you to everyone that made me feel welcomed as a foreigner and really helped me adjust! Everything written in this text came out of an experience that I had living in California, New York, and Virginia, while traveling to other states too!

A special thank you to the ENTIRE VCU women's basketball team; that team was and is like a family to me (hence the use of the specific picture). It took 5+ years to feel that welcomed and three universities, but you made my college years worth it! Another special thank you to the couple of special people I came across in Stony Brook and the great friend I made in UC Riverside!

I care to hear back from you on why this continues to happen in the United States, PLEASE COMMENT BELOW!

Love always! -FindurselfbyJRO

 


7 comments


  • Marla Coklas

    Sorry for not finishing my last post… what I wanted to conclude with is this:
    As difficult as it may have been sometimes, my parents chose to surround themselves with people who loved and accepted them for who they are. Which, in turn, was a valuable life lesson for their children.
    My parents always told us this, “it’s only when you allow people to hurt you, you validate what they’ve said to you.” This phrase, sounds better in Greek of course… hopefully the meaning didn’t get lost in translation.
    I’m so happy you’re back at ACS… you are a true asset to our school and community! Plus, I love to see your smiling face!!!! All my love, Marla


  • Marla Coklas

    My dear Jessica,
    As I read through your experiences, I found myself taking deep breaths. At one point I stopped, realized what I was doing, and asked myself, why? What is it that is triggering this reaction? After some reflection I felt as if my mom or dad (who passed away a year ago) could have written this. You spoke as if they would. No matter how hard my parents tried, they were never “American” enough. They even changed our last name from being spelled Koklas to Coklas, believing the “C” would make us fit in more. Imagine also us children of these immigrant parents. Constantly defending my parents’ honor when they were either deliberately or “under the table” being made fun of. Despite these ignorant acts, my parents LOVED America, for the opportunities it gave their children. That’s the entire reason they moved from Greece, to give my brother and I the best opportunities possible. They worked tirelessly, 3 & 4 jobs, paid their taxes, obeyed the law, and were never a burden to anyone.


  • Maraishab

    Hi Jessica it’s really good to see that you felt comfortable enough to share your experience and although it was tough you managed to get through it. Can’t believe that a place so modernised can be so oblivious and ignorant when it comes to everyday life and sense of respect of multiculturalism.


  • findurselfbyjro

    @Jana Thank YOU for taking the time to read this. It is interesting to see that all it takes for you to “belong” or be “normal” is for you to change how you speak. However, a person is so much more than how they talk. As people, we tend to judge someone by how they speak and we unfortunately fail to see all the unique characteristics that are hidden behind that. How a person speaks, from accents to their vocabulary, can be an indicator of all the wonderful experiences and culture that they have experienced. It is time for us to look beyond.

    On a different note, I think that it is wonderful that you have held on to your identity. You don’t have to belong, you don’t need a label, as long as you are yourself and happy with who you are! :)


  • findurselfbyjro

    @Anamaria You know it took a me a very long time to realize that these comments made weren’t personal. It was not a group of people making fun of me specifically. It is an entire nation, and not just any nation, that fails to embrace and respect other people’s differences, cultures, traditions, and more. It is not just a personality problem of one or two people; it’s a national problem and I think it is time to raise awareness!


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