Coming to the US and the struggle as an ESL student

Do you know how it feels to sit in a classroom, feeling like a fish out of water? Working so hard but seeing no improvement, trying to understand what the teacher is communicating inside the classroom, feeling anxious because of new language. That is the beginning of my first day at school. My first day of school may be different from some of you, but it may apply for many students who are beginners of new language and new environment.

Before I begin my story, let me introduce to you a little bit more about me. My name is Louise Niyogushima.  I was born in Tanzania and I came to the United States four years ago. Of course, a new environment can bring hardships in different ways. It was a struggle learning a new language and communicating differently than I was used too.

Walking through a park in Knoxville during my first year here, 2016.

In August 2016, I started to attend Austin East High School, but a few months later, I relocated and started to attend Central High School. Central feels like a home to me because it taught me about many things. This is the place that built me because of the struggle an ESL student encountered, and now I am a former ESL student. 

Learning new languages, befriending, and struggling in different subjects are the main reasons that Central means so much to me. In addition, the teachers are obliging in helping the students; their generosity means so much because of their encouragement and support. 

I have come to realize that even though it may take time to know the language and interact with diverse cultures, I have something special to share with others.  I think it is also important for any foreign student: no matter where you come from, you have something special to share with the people around you.


Starting to feel more confident and at home in the US

As a student, the motive and purpose of sharing my story are because of what I saw that some ESL students including me had. We have fear while learning a new language. We also have dreams: The dream to make a difference. We come to feel stuck in the situation of expressing ourselves in class because of our apprehension. I know that you may feel like a fish out of water because not all the students may understand what you are struggling with, but remember not all students know how it feels to be laughed at or even someone to look down on you.  

Our fear prevents us from building that dream. There are some students who still have the same apprehension as I did. Some may not admit that we have a fear to express ourselves because someone in class may laugh. Some are petrified to speak because of language, hesitation, and criticism of other classmates that could laugh at them. 

At the end of the day, I always keep in mind that I am going to make mistakes and learn from my mistakes. As for the beginner of a new language, there is nothing to fear because learning a new language takes time, effort, failure, practice, and patience. In fact, if you do not make mistakes, how will you learn? As for me, I believe that you are going to meet with some difficulties, but that can not make you despair to succeed.

Working hard during my senior year – not letting fear stop me from succeeding

Expressing your feelings to others is a key way of sharing your view with the surrounding people. When answering the question or asking the question in class without apprehension of someone in your class that could laugh at you: this is a key way of building up self-confidence. Building your self-confidence, no one will help you to build it if you don’t first build it yourself.

It is not a crime or terrible to make mistakes because that is the path leading to success. The mistakes will assist you to know your strengths and weaknesses. The laughter of others will push you forward. There is no hindrance or barriers for you not to succeed, but to keep fighting and making mistakes will open many doors for you.


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