I was in seventh grade, sitting behind a desk in a completely new country, and I could not understand why Mr. Leavey kept saying “Horsie.” I had moved to the United States three weeks earlier and I was not ready to be dropped into a world that I was not familiar with. It took me several minutes to realize that my teacher was mispronouncing my name, and once I realized this, I was not sure if he was making a joke. Frustration and embarrassment engulfed my body as I could not find the words to correct him. Tears fell down my face as I got up and ran away from the problem – a bad habit that stayed with me for years to come.
My inability to connect and understand the English language resulted in feelings of inadequacy. I remember sitting next to a girl and trying to explain that I was a new student in a nervous mixture of Swedish, Farsi, and any other made up words that I could create. The poor girl probably muttered “I don’t understand you,” as she got up from the chair and found another place to sit. Attempts like these felt like a constant and cruel reminder of my loneliness since I had already left my home, friends, and family behind. I began keeping to myself and spending my days trying to “stay out of the way,” as I did not want to cause myself any embarrassment.
After years of watching me retreat into some form of hibernation, my father finally stood up and said that I could no longer blame my difficulties on being an immigrant. He asked me to decide whether I would admit defeat by moving back to Sweden or complete my mission of becoming the first in my family to attend college in the United States. I made the decision to take charge of my success and further develop my mastery of the English language. I began spending my afternoons diligently watching television with closed captioning to understand sentence structure. College allowed me another opportunity to improve and I spent this time enveloping myself in books, attending workshops, and frequenting my professors’ office hours in order to learn more about the English language. Eventually, my skills improved to the point where I was able to tutor English in Orange Coast College’s Student Success Center. Being able to explain concepts that I struggled with in the past brings me a tremendous sense of accomplishment because it reminds me of my journey and how far I have come.
As I became more proficient in the language, I realized that I also wanted to overcome my insecurities and my fear of standing out. Thus, I applied and was accepted to the student government organization at Orange Coast College as the school’s new event coordinator. Being a part of student government allowed me to be a leader on campus while also allowing me to improve my confidence through my many interactions with students throughout the campus.
My battle with the English language has been embarrassing, tough, and at times, absolutely ridiculous, but in the process I have developed the skills necessary to become a passionate writer, leader, and mentor. Because of my personal development, I have become a confident person who is no longer afraid of standing out when an awkward moment arrives; rather, I find myself laughing at the situation and appreciating that silly moments occur and that it is our job to embrace them, not to run away from them.
While I am sure that I will continue to feel a tad bit uncomfortable when my sister teases me and calls me “Horsie,” I know that much has changed: most importantly, my commitment to myself and my desire to always look for ways to improve and excel. A little part of me will always be “Horsie,” a young girl who is afraid, uncomfortable, and still figuring out her place in the world. However, the rest of me will be Hasti, the woman who looks at Little Miss Horsie, and tells her that with dedication, hard work, and commitment, there is no reason to run away..