Anyone who has lived in Carson City for even a few weeks probably knows that it is a magnet for immigrants from south of the border. It seems that the burgeoning presence of light manufacturing, and the abundance of service industry jobs in this area, have been the major forces drawing these immigrants north. In addition to Hispanics, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese and East Indians have come. Also, I have met Russian and Turkish newcomers. And, perhaps there are more I've not yet met!?
As a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) I have come to know many of our immigrants well. My appreciation of them grows daily. Having lived in a foreign land, I know how hard it is to adjust to the intricacies of a new culture. Things that we take for granted are a daily challenge to them. Banking, grocery shopping, finding transportation, and negotiating with the DMV are major undertakings. Acquiring work, getting a Social Security number and lining up medical attention (when needed) are additional challenges. In the face of so much that is different, "culture shock" can set in, i.e., a kind of depressive reaction to the complicated adjustments being made. When overwhelmed by culture shock, humans tend to stick with the people and things that are comfortably familiar. The knowns become the "barrio" in which to hide and feel safe.
In light of the above, it is impressive to see the number of nonEnglish-speaking people who are streaming into our English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes at Western Nevada Community College. Of note, Dr. Carol Lucey, president of WNCC, Dr. Joseph DeFlyer, dean of Arts, Sciences and Developmental Education, and Aurora Ruiz Hurte, director of ABE/ESL, must be credited with having the foresight to bring these programs onto the main college campus in recent weeks.
This act of inclusiveness is making "foreign" and ABE students feel more a part of the college community. In turn, some are already striving for higher skills and greater academic achievement. They are embracing the technical challenge of computers (unknown to many of them), and interacting with sophisticated English language software programs in our ESL computer lab.
Many of us are immigrants to this community, having adopted it as our home. Generally speaking, we have been greeted warmly and have gained a sense of belonging. Most of us have had the advantage of already speaking the language. As the newer, "foreign" immigrants arrive, they face the challenge of adjusting to a totally different environment and learning a new and very difficult language at the same time.
Some are already professionals in their fields, who need to master English in order to pass state licensing examinations. Several are engineers who have taken menial jobs here to support intensive language study, so they may return to their native countries as bilingual engineers with attendant higher pay. Almost without exception, these people work incredibly hard at regular jobs. Then they add several hours to each day, studying English.
As I empathize with the adjustments these new immigrants must make, I am reminded of how much I like and admire them for their determination. They are also wonderful and friendly people to be around. It will be our community's challenge to welcome these new immigrants with warmth and respect. Hopefully, the college's inclusiveness will serve to be the motto for us all.
Susan Paslov is a retired attorney, who teaches English as a Second Language. She is married, with three children and one grandchild.