In 2019, approximately a year after I came to Providence, I applied to CCRI to take an American history class. I was so curious about what had happened in America before the United States was founded. I wanted to know what was the fundamental foundation to build up the most powerful country on planet earth in a relatively short time.
The United States of America’s history is only one-tenth as long as Korea’s. There was no doubt my English at that time wasn’t good enough for taking the class of American history. Even now I can’t be sure my English is good, but the language barrier didn’t stop me.
During the first couple of classes, I was embarrassed because I could neither understand the professor’s lectures clearly nor participate in debates on the issues discussed in class. So, I had to pre-study for each class in order to understand the professor’s lecture as much as I could.
For the first essay-type exam, I prepared more than 300 flashcards and tried to learn them by heart. I turned in my paper last in the exam and got 97 points. The second exam was to submit a report about an historical event. I put a lot of effort into it and handed it in, but the professor returned it to me because my report didn’t follow the Modern Language Association format. I was asked by the professor to get some help from a tutor at CCRI and I got some comments from the tutor such as, “I don’t understand how a student who didn’t learn about MLA format could take an American history class. It is better for you to give up on it.” After a long time, I was finally able to hand it in and got 80 points.
I was so excited because I was able to understand the U.S more. The United States was created by unifying the states into one great country after the bloody civil war. Korea was not able to do that. Americans also accomplished setting the slaves free. Freedom is the most valuable thing mankind is pursuing even though efforts in the U.S for equality are still challenging and in progress.
Understanding more about American history brought me not only a kind of happiness but it also was very painful. I almost didn’t pass. But I finally was able to get an A in American history. It was the first time since coming to the United States that I felt proud of myself. I hope that I can also be American in the future.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Young is currently taking English writing classes in PPL’s Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI) English class program. In Young’s words…
I am from South Korea. I went to Korea University in Seoul, and I have built up my career as an architectural engineer for more than 35 years in the building construction field. I have been attending writing classes through the Library.
As an architectural engineer, my American dream is to build a house for my family, and a small building for a family business. I am attending the classes as a cornerstone to make my American dream come true.
I really appreciate PPL offering the valuable classes to help immigrants. I have learned a lot from very professional and dedicated instructors. I am happy to learn English with the other students. I would like to express my thanks to all. It has helped me with being more confident in talking to native speakers. I am sure it will be helpful for opening my own business in the future.
Young’s story was first published on The Public’s Radio’s community essay series as part of its Mosaic podcast on immigration. We are pleased to be able to include a link to this essay in Young’s own words.