April 2014
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VOICES FROM THE FIELD
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
Michelle E. Johnson, Rhode Island College, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

As I wait for my cousins to bring me to the New World, I am anxious, anxious to learn and anxious to speak. Will they accept me? Will I have friends? Will my mother remember me? As I think, fear builds up inside me like a terrible recurring nightmare. I wonder if I should stay. My home is like a warm blanket on a cold, dark night. I don’t want to leave but my mother tells me I will be okay. I hope she is right.

When I arrive, I am surrounded by unfamiliarity. All I hear is, “Why can’t he speak English? Why doesn’t he get it?” My teachers don’t believe in me but I still do.

A few years pass and my struggles continue to bubble over like a pot of boiling water. I learned their language like I was told to but I forgot mine. I have new siblings in my country that don’t know me. I don’t know who I am anymore. Where do I come from? Where do I truly belong? I am a stranger in a strange land.

I was inspired to write this piece by one of my students. Most of his family is back in Cape Verde. He is learning English but has slowly forgotten the Creole he once knew. He has not seen his mother in 2 years and has siblings he has never met. His teachers have lost faith in him. I truly believe in his capabilities and I remind him he can achieve great things every day. I see how lost he looks and it makes me sad. I know there are more children who experience this and I feel their stories need to be told.


Michelle Johnson is an ESL resource teacher in Rhode Island. She graduated from the TESL program at Rhode Island College in 2013 and is in pursuit of her master’s degree in ESL. She is passionate about her students and is a true advocate for them.
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