My name is Thierno Diallo.

Conakry, Guinea

Bronx, New York



Salem, Massachusetts

Do not Let Your Struggles Become Your Identity

August 3, 2014 was finally here. My uncle and I had just boarded the plane and headed to the United States. I sat near the airplane window while waiting for the plane to take off. It was my first travel in this part of the world so I looked forward to the days ahead with eagerness and excitement. About 23 hours later, we finally arrived at JFK airport. The sky was clear on this sunny day. The airport looked more beautiful and decorated than I expected. We took care of our formalities without much thought and headed out to meet my family. After a couple of years without seeing them, it was joy of cries. But at the same time I was thankful for the good opportunities they have given me. On our way home, I could see how beautiful the view was, buildings shinning, beautiful construction, and people walking all around the city. After a few days of relaxing and visiting some family members, my uncle and I went to New York City Department of Education Center, looking for an international high school. I was nervous as a cat running from a dog, scared. It was more than clear that my uncle was a little worried for me, but guess what! I was even worse. I could not t imagine the feeling of being discriminated against by other people because I did not know how to speak English. A new chapter of my life just started, and I had to confront all challenges in order to show my capabilities and to get a better life.

The first day of class I realized that I wasn’t the only new student in this situation. On a sunny but chilly day, I entered a classroom with about 20 students and when I came in they were all looking at me. My concerns about not speaking English started when I heard the teacher explaining the course, because all I could understand was to do projects, essays or homework. Everyday, I went home crying, feeling the most hopeless boy in the world, because I wasn’t able to do things on my own. It might sound like a hyperbole but it is not; those were the correct words to describe my feelings in that moment. This experience impacted me because I thought I wasn’t worth in this type of society.

When I was in Guinea, my parents put me in English class but I didn’t take it seriously. I thought it was not necessary, but I then recognized I was wrong. Here in the United States, English is needed for everything. What was frustrating to me the most was my grades. In Guinea, my lowest grade was an 85, but since I came here it was a disaster. I was stressed out, and completely out of control. My parents were scared and sad at the same time because of my situation. So what I did was to make up a fake smile to hide how much I was hurt and broken inside. Sometimes, it was hard, because they knew I wasn’t feeling good at school and with my English, but at least I tried. That was the most challenging situation I have ever had in my life. I was as sad as a grey day with no sun to lighten it. It is really hard to try to communicate with people who do not speak the same language.

Sometimes, I asked for help, and students automatically changed their attitude as if they didn’t like to help others. One day I was in Biology class in 9th grade, It was my first year here. The teacher was explaining a project we had to do. The thing is that I did not understand what he was saying and I asked a girl for help and her response made me feel really sad and upset. I don’t like to bother anybody and that’s why I got inspired to learn English, just to show people that I can develop myself and that I like to do my work and help people as well . Even though I felt scared when I was speaking English in front of people, I knew that this was part of the process of getting a better life.
From this experience of not getting help, I’ve learned how to do things by myself without the help of people that do not know what it means to help others. The fact of not knowing English when I came here, I noticed how people ignored me, even the people that were in the same situation as me. This experience made me stronger, I learned that you can accomplish whatever you want by putting effort and interest into it. Now thanks to my effort and the need to learn English, I am clear that I have to develop my skills even more.

Nowadays, I consider myself as a leader. I love to help people with their classes and with English, especially when it is someone who has the same desire to overcome challenges and learn as I. Advice I give to the new learners is to be brave of the challenges they face and be more productive to achieve them. If you do not try you will never know how it would be, because in order to be successful you need to be persistent. Do not let your struggles become your identity.