Regina Hernandez’s Story
As retold by Sharonda Love-Wilson
I am the youngest in the family. I have three siblings, two brothers and one sister. I came to the United States when I was just eight or nine years old. I started in the first grade. I did not know any English. I struggled and was frustrated with learning the English language. Moving from Mexico to Michigan was a culture shock. My siblings and I needed to adjust to the changes.
It was so cold here. After a few months of being in the United States, my sister and I were at home, and saw something strange outside. We were home alone, and were afraid. We were not sure if we needed to call our parents, so we decided not to. When my parents got home, we ran to the car to tell them about the white stuff that was coming from the sky. My parents laughed at us because it was just snow. To our surprise, it was normal in Michigan, to be cold and to have something called snow. My mom assured us that this weather was normal and made sure we had the proper attire so we could enjoy the snow. We made our first snowman and enjoyed it. Actually, I still like winters.
The shock of moving to a new country and attending school was another obstacle. Unlike the fun of playing in the snow, my siblings and I were all failing when we first started school in the United States. Through the frustrations, we found a church that helped support us in this transition. The school system we were in did not provide adequate tutors. The church helped my parents find tutors to help us to be successful. Through this support, we all have earned our high school diplomas. My siblings have a desire to complete college, but life happens. They have families and have to work, so college is not first priority at this time.
My dad sat down with me one day, while I was asking for money, that I needed to be thinking about a career. I did not want to hear him talk about a career; I wanted the money I had asked for. However, my dad stressed that if I did not think of a career path, I would end up getting a job with a low wage and not having the money that I desired. After that serious talk with my dad, I chose teaching as a career. Initially when I came to college, I dreamed of being a teacher. I wanted to help students who struggle with English as a second language. After starting the teacher path of success, I realized early that this path was going to be more difficult than I anticipated. I found out as I progressed that the classes were harder and maybe I had set an unattainable goal. I did not want to fail. I wanted to reach a short term goal first, then hopefully pursue a teaching degree in the future. I wanted to be happy and to also make my parents happy. I still desire to help struggling students, but in order to fulfill my dream of obtaining a college degree and the dream of my parents to own a family business, I changed my major to cosmetology. Cosmetology is a program that is attainable in a shorter amount of time than a teaching degree.
I am longing to make my parents proud to have a daughter who has taken advantage of the sacrifices they made to bring themselves and their children to the United States. My parents wanted their children to have better that what they had. They dreamed of their children finishing high school, finishing college, and eventually owning a business.
My parents did not finish grade school and do not speak very much English. My mom had to drop out of school at an early age. She was a smart student, but her mother could not afford to pay for her education in Mexico. My mom had to go to work instead of getting an education. My dad wants a restaurant someday, but will settle for whatever business his children will open, so the family can work together. My dad was not as good of a student like my mother; he had a hard time with memorization. His family could not afford for him to go to school, so he decided to go to work to help the family out.
The desire to stay together as a family is a desire of both of my parents. My siblings and I agree. We still eat together every day. As a family we speak in our native tongue to respect our parents. My siblings and I speak sometimes in English, but we talk so fast, that our parents have to tell us to slow down, so they can understand what we are saying. We love being around one another and supporting one another. My family has been and still is my external motivation. In my culture, family is very important, including our extended family. While in America, my grandmother, passed away and the lengthy process of returning to Mexico did not grant permission for my brother to see her while she was ill.
Even though it is the dream of my parents, we all want our family to own a business and to work together. My dad is so strong and still works hard daily to provide for our family. My mom still cooks for us every day to keep our family connected by her delicious meals. My mother encourages me daily. She is excited about my career choice. My brothers and sister, also encourage me, and think about how they can contribute to a family business perhaps in the cosmetology industry. I have some ideas, but I am just starting out in my studies, so I will see how I progress.
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Immigrant & International Students’ Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.