By Rachel(Shiya) Jiang and Elina Lim
Immigration can be a daunting experience for both adults and children, particularly for the latter, who may be especially vulnerable to the challenges of adjusting to a new country. The experience of being uprooted from familiar surroundings and forced to adapt to an entirely new environment during their critical developmental years can be overwhelming. Children must simultaneously adapt to unfamiliar social norms, cultural practices, and language, all while undergoing the normal developmental processes of childhood. As first-generation immigrant children themselves, Rachel Jiang and Edyn Lim are acutely aware of these challenges and are able to relate to them on a personal level.
After initially arriving in America, immigrant children may face unique difficulties in adjusting to their new environments. They may feel caught between two cultures, with one culture represented by their parents and the other by their peers and community. This phenomenon, commonly known as an "identity crisis," can create a sense of dissonance and confusion due to a wish to reconcile their family's values and traditions with those of the wider society. Edyn explains, “I was living in two different worlds, conversing in two different languages, and following two entirely different cultures that many times I felt like I was two different people by the time I was 8.”
One of the most critical aspects of cultural adaptation is language proficiency. Children who do not speak the language of their new country fluently may struggle to communicate with their peers and teachers, which can hinder their academic progress and social integration. This was a particularly difficult challenge for Rachel, who notes how “I often felt isolated and alone, unable to fully participate in class discussions or make friends with my peers. My parents were also struggling to learn English, which made it difficult for them to help me with my schoolwork and communicate with my teachers”. As such, a significant amount of pressure was placed on Rachel to learn the language quickly in order to assist her parents, a formidable task even for the most linguistically gifted individuals. Regardless of the considerable amounts of struggle, both Rachel and Edyn look back with a positive beam of nostalgia rather than the painful haze of regret. Through the various type sof resources that were availiable in America to their respective communities, both were able to thrive in a new country.
Cultural differences can also extend to something as basic as food. The culinary preferences of different cultures can vary dramatically, and some immigrant families may struggle to find local foods that are palatable or related to their culture. This can exacerbate feelings of homesickness and cultural dislocation, as many parents attempt to make their own dishes at home, but find it difficult to procure the right ingredients and spices.
Despite these challenges, the multiculturalism of America offers many opportunities for immigrants to expand their horizons and learn about other cultures. By embracing diversity and promoting cultural exchange, we can help make the process of assimilation less daunting for newcomers and create a more inclusive society for all. It is important to recognize the unique challenges faced by immigrant children and to provide resources and support to help them