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Truths from an immigrant’s child

Sharon Shatananda

Sharon Shatananda

There are two kinds of immigrants. Some remain true to their native traditions long after they’ve left home. Others are quick to turn their backs on the past and eagerly embrace their new environment.

I would like to believe I’m working toward a blend of both. Though I was born in India, I spent so little time living there that I couldn’t possibly claim to be anything but American.

I have always been pulled further west than east, but that is sure to change over time. There is a little bit of the gung-ho Indian and wannabe all-American in all of us, but I’ve been tasked with deciding whether to go the typical American teenager route, or to follow the call of India.

My fellow second-generation immigrants live in a society to which they were more accustomed at 5 years old than their parents ever will be. Most of our classmates go through their school lives with parents who have “done that back in the day.” Their entire family line may have lived in the area and attended the same high school.

We newcomers are figuring out high-school schedules, college opportunities, and customs right along with our mothers and fathers, who are very different from average American parents.

Immigrant parents are eager to unlock all the great opportunities that lay waiting in America -- often through their children. The pressure has been known to reach ultimate highs for us kids, especially compared to our American classmates.

But, quite early in my school career, I realized that this can be more of an advantage than a curse. The truth is, our parents have a perspective on our school systems and opportunities that we couldn’t possibly understand.

On the other hand, there are experiences I just can’t find here. I’ve grown up without trips to relatives on holidays. I never know the elaborate names of sweets to ask for from India, and I have an inadequate knowledge of the culture or language.

There are many of us out there, kids just like me, who can’t claim to be either fully American or fully something else. But it shouldn’t be a crutch, but an edge. We have a lens through which to see the world, for our eyes only. We can hone in on that, and use our neither-here-nor-there immigrant status to our advantage.

Sharon Shatananda is a high-school student who writes about teen topics for NolaVie. Email her [email protected]