My family and I came to the United States in 1986. I saw many different people when I arrived at the airport. I was interested and excited.
My English was like a little baby. I couldn’t explain what I wanted. Therefore, I couldn’t do anything without someone’s help.
I worked seven days a week. I was a very hard working seamstress. I learned how to speak Spanish from my co-workers. I met Sonia when I worked at a sewing factory for my first job. She was from Mexico. She helped me a lot. My Spanish name is Gabriela, the name of Sonia’s grandmother.
One day, I took an English class. I filled out the application. I didn’t know how, it was very hard for me to understand. But I had to do it. My English teacher called me a strange name (Heenochoung Bronson) when I was in the classroom. She pointed to me. I did not know what to do. She tried to understand me but I was very confused. I was thinking, “Why did she call me somebody else’s name?” But it sounded familiar. My English teacher thought my husband’s last name was Bronson. Bronson was my address. I mixed up my name on the form. She called me that until I understood her English a little bit better.
I studied at home. I started to read English books. It was boring and hard to understand. I was very patient. I took one vocabulary word a day, like taking medicine everyday. One day, my husband asked me, “Are you married to books or me?” because I cuddled books all the time. I wanted to communicate with my younger daughter again.
I lost my husband in 2008. I moved to Minnesota in 2009. I gave up the driver’s license I got in 1987. At that time I thought my life was ending. I missed my husband very much during that sad time.
In 2012 I won the life lottery. It was bright new life again. The Neighborhood House!
I’ve been studying over a year at Neighborhood House. I met many wonderful, good teachers. I got my citizenship and voted for the first time in U.S. elections. I learned many things from good teachers. They are very impressive to me everyday and make me never give up learning.
In January of each year, our English students write personal essays and submit them for publication in Journeys, an anthology of ELL student writing published annually by the Minnesota Literacy Council. Chung Hee No, one of our star students, chose to write about her journey from immigrant to US citizen.