Alien. I always thought that name sounded weird.

Its only translation into Spanish would be “Alienigena” which means “living being from another planet.” Like an extraterrestrial.

Spaniards, we don’t use “alien” as a word to describe an immigrant, that’s why it’s funny to me to hear it and at the same time weird to process its meaning in my mind. 

I guess you could say that I belong to a very different place than the U.S. which in fact, sometimes it feels like I’m from another world.

When I moved here as an alien student in 2016, I felt vulnerable in many situations.My biggest challenge was the language barrier. It was literally a wall that would trap me and make me feel ostracized.

Languages can be seen as doors and windows that reveal another world, that allows us to navigate to the places we want to reach. For me, learning English was an urgent matter.

I’ve always considered myself an outgoing person, who enjoys spending time with others, talking for hours, and having debates of any kind. I not only enjoyed talking to friends, family, and coworkers, but I also loved to start conversations with anyone, no matter if they were strangers. I liked meeting new people and knowing about their lives.

But when I moved here, I couldn’t understand anything, and not being able to talk or acknowledge others’ conversations, really affected me.

“Communication leads to community, that is to understanding and mutual valuing.” -Psychologist, Rollo May.

Human beings are social animals and communication is a basic need we have. To listen, to interact with the other living beings that surround us, to show oneself, and to express feelings through speech has always been a part of us. Although some are more shy than others, we all have felt a need for adaptation through communication.

Finally being in the U.S and unable to be myself due to my lack of English, I would get really anxious when gathering with people. Even watching TV, I would sit in front of the big screen hoping to take something out of it, but nothing. I thought it was going to be impossible to learn because time would pass and I would feel stuck. 

I enrolled in English classes as soon as I arrived. I studied really hard for months. I didn’t want to spend too much time learning the language because I wanted to start college as soon as possible. I felt I was getting too old and that I needed to hurry up. 

I wish I would have to take a deep breath and told myself “take your time,” because even though I passed the tests that were required to get enrolled in college, I didn’t feel ready. I rushed myself, and later on, I suffered the consequences.

In my classes, I wanted to participate so badly, but I was so scared that my professor would not understand me. That, for me, was the most embarrassing feeling. I was translating everything in my mind and my speech was very slow. I saw my classmates, getting to know each other, making friends, and I would not even be able to understand what was going on. 

I would feel terrified for my essays in class since my spelling and grammar weren’t good enough to make complete sentences. I would practice word by word whenever I had a presentation, and I would pray for people not to ask me questions once the presentation was over. I would spend days on all my writing homework, asking at least six different people to read it over to make it perfect.

On top of all, the major that I always wanted to pursue was journalism and I knew that was going to demand a lot of writing and speaking. 

I had a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes I would feel improvement and hope, other times I felt like an outcast, that didn’t belong here. 

Frustration. Anger. Insecurity. Sadness. Fear. Shame.

Sometimes all at once. 

Everything has its pros and cons. This whole process changed me, and now I am a different person. Maybe now, I consider myself an introverted, something that I wasn’t before.

But everything in life has a purpose. Now I can proudly say that I am bilingual. 

Even though my brain plays me sometimes I’m so excited that this process was worth it. 

I mean, I was able to write this column and you were able to understand it, right? Isn’t that awesome?