Friday, June 18, 2010


During my teaching career, I met many students and two of the most interesting were Dan and Sheri (not their real names). They quickly adopted English sounding versions of their given names. Dan arrived at my school in September with very limited English skills from a country found on this map. As a high school librarian, I had a unique opportunity to get acquainted with hundreds of students who liked the environment and some were also assistants. As a person new to this country and the school, Dan wanted to spend spare time in the library to pursue his studies, and also assist with our new computers. I've never met a teenage boy who wasn't a computer whiz. Never one to turn down free help, especially with computers, I showed him our routines and tasks which he picked up very quickly. He was very intelligent and he had deliberately scheduled advanced classes even with his limited English. He was speaking English like a native by the end of October.

He had moved to the United States to live with relatives to attend high school and college in the U.S. He began showing me e-mails from his sister who was still living in his home country with their family. I also had the opportunity to meet his father when he came to visit. He was a scientist in their home country. Dan told me many stories about his sister and he obviously had a great deal of affection for her. We sometimes discussed his culture through pictures he found on the Internet. Dan liked ancient antiquities and the architecture of his ancestors. He was very aware of their contributions to mathematics, medicine, and science. He was a quiet young man with excellent manners and an innate confidence. He got along well with other students because they seemed to respect his abilities and intelligence. Dan received credits for working for me each year and he would do his assigned tasks quickly then head for a quiet corner to study. He was very mature for his age--more like a college student than a high school student. When he went to college, he majored in the computer field.

Before Dan graduated, his sister Sheri arrived. She was planning to attend high school and college in this country so she learned English quickly also. Her mother had also moved here and began working in health care. Occasionally, the father would visit them and stop at the school for events, but he did not move to the U.S. from the home country during the time I knew them. Dan and Sheri were their mother's only children, but they had other half-siblings. They discussed holidays they celebrated with extended family, but not the nuclear family dynamic of their culture. They spoke of family members in various places around the world, but they mentioned no religious affiliations.

Sheri assumed the job that Dan had held for four years and I had the chance to get to know her for four years. They were both extremely attractive young people and she was very interested in her new culture. She was responsible for the magazine collection and read a great many of them. She especially loved the fashions and played with different trendy designs like any teenage girl--jeans were a big hit. Sheri liked to have her eyebrows waxed or her makeup custom designed at the local salons.One day she flat ironed her very curly black hair and it was extremely long but beautiful hair to envy. She never wore the head cover that she was required to wear in the home country. She was like any teenager who was excited by new things and enjoyed her high school experience. She was thrilled to take driver education and to learn to drive. Both Dan and Sheri were extremely personable and fun to know. I will always remember their ready smiles and kind faces.

Several years after they had graduated and I had retired, I saw Dan in a sushi restaurant with a very attractive young lady he was courting. It was wonderful to have a few minutes to get re-acquainted. He had graduated from college, and was employed by one of the big name companies, as well as doing charity work in the community. I keep in touch with his activities through his web page. He has grown into a handsome, very professional young man. His sister Sheri attended college and majored in communications. I saw a picture of her in the newspaper recently and she is still a gorgeous young lady.

They were proud of their heritage and their culture, but they obviously embraced the benefits of life in the U.S. to enjoy the parts of this culture that appealed to them. It was interesting to observe how they could simultaneously entertain two cultures with ease. They were interested in cultural assimilation as needed, but they don't plan to return to their previous country. If I did not know their country of origin, I would never suspect if I met them for the first time today. It was very rewarding to witness their metamorphosis.


  1. A very interesting post. At first I thought they were Chinese until you got to the head covering part. It's so good for us to be able to have these talented people here, and I am glad you were able to make friends with them, because now I feel that I am their friend, too. Thanks for the interesting post.

  2. This was one of my treasured memories but I debated with myself for weeks before posting this. I wanted to find a way to be as circumspect as I could be without invading their privacy.

  3. That is so neat that you were able to witness their transformation. Also, the two week Baltic cruise you mentioned in my Aloha Friday post sounds amazing. So glad ya'll got to enjoy that.

  4. You did a great job telling about the brother and sister who moved to the US and learned English quickly and earned degrees. I am sure they earned respect along the way from other students and now in their professions as well.