Running an USA blog I meet a lot of other expats online and some of them have really cool blogs themselves. That’s how I met Evg. Enko. from Belarus and she was so nice to answer a few questions about her new American life to share on my site.
Where are you from originally?
Born and raised in Belarus, one of the former USSR countries in Eastern Europe.
How long have you been living in the United States?
I moved to the States in June 2007 and have lived in L.A. for just a bit over 6 years now.
Why did you decide to move to America?
I first came to the USA in 2006 as a summer exchange student and had one of the greatest summers of my life. Then I went back and couldn’t stop dreaming about coming back. So when in summer 2007 I actually did come again, I knew I didn’t want to leave.
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
Waiting and not knowing when I’ll be able to see my family again. Questioning myself and the decision to become an immigrant. It took me over 2 years before the process was complete. I realized it wasn’t such a long time, and many people have waited for much longer, but it did seem very long at the time.
What techniques worked best for you to learn English?
Not being afraid to make a mistake and speaking even if I felt shy or conscious about my accent.
Watching movies without subtitles – takes time to get used to, but definitely helps a lot.
I listen to a lot of audio books in English. They are free and easy to find in pretty much any public library and have had huge impact on how I structure my sentences, my vocabulary and I believe my accent as well.
You’ve been living here for a while. What do you like the most?
As cliche as it may sound, I like the feeling of freedom here, of personal expression and choices.
Customer service in the states is known world-wide for a reason as well – you can ask and request pretty much anything here, and unless you’re crossing a certain line, the people in charge will go out of their way to accomodate you.
The abundance and availability of everything. It’s hard to find an example where you will hear “We do not ship to USA”, “We do not accept US credit cards” or “We do not speak English”. It seems like anything and everything is possible and available to you.
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
I miss some of the foods, although you can find almost anything and everything in L.A., often it’s not authentic and the way I remembered it. I miss some of the holidays, especially when it’s not recognized in the USA.
This is probably the most weird one, but I miss the feeling of belonging to my country, my nation, especially during special events. I feel the most comfortable and welcomed in America, but at times I still realize I am just another immigrant here, one amongst millions.
Have you had any surprising or even shocking experiences here in the U.S. yet?
Every day I learn, discover and get surprised. The food, the preferences, the habits – just a few things that I often find myself puzzled about. I can’t say that something particularly shocked me, but it is a different culture, environment, which I keep constantly exploring and getting accustomed to.
Do you travel home to Belarus sometime?
I do not travel to Belarus, but I’ve been going to Russia every two years or so to meet with my family and some of my friends.
Are you planning to move back home someday or are you here to stay?
The longer I stay here the more I feel like this is also becoming my home. I know that in my heart and my mentality I will always remain a Belorussian, but I can barely imagine myself going back and living my life there. It will almost be like starting everything all over again and I am not sure I am up to that.
Looking back at your migration to the US, would you have done anything differently?
Absolutely not. Obviously, there are times when I pause and think if this is worth it and if it makes sense. But then I realize that everything happens for a reason and I live in a place where I genuinely and with all my heart wanted to, so you could tell I am living my dream.
Do you have any advice that you would like to give other immigrants about life in America?
Be prepared that things won’t always turn out the way you think or wish they did.
Be patient, stay motivated and know what you came here for.
Don’t get discouraged or fooled by other people’s stories – there are no two life stories that are identical, and yours will turn out somehow differently.
Appreciate every little thing you get and achieve here.
Read more about Evg. Enko.’s lessons, experiences and surprises of her American life in her blog at www.idiscoveramerica.blogspot.com