Students and staff from other countries bring their culture and new perspectives about American society, which diversifies the Sequoia community.
“[It was] a bit scary at first because the culture and everything is different, [but] you get used to it,” said French teacher Laurence Arfi, born in Paris, France. “In France you can just walk everywhere. Here it is really a struggle when you don’t have a car.”
As of 2013, 13 percent of the total U.S. population had immigrated. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the top countries of origin were Mexico, India, the Philippines, China and Vietnam. Also according to the MPI, California was the top state immigrants traveled to from 1990 to 2013.
Math teacher Steven Wong was born in Yangon, Burma, until moving in eighth grade.
“All my relatives are in California. When I was in 7th grade, Burma had a big political riot [where] they shut down all the schools, so I was homeschooled for a year. A year later, the schools were still shut down and my parents [said], ‘You still need to go school,’ so, voilà, I’m here,” Wong said.
According to California Watch, exactly one-third of San Mateo County residents had immigrated as of 2011.
The U.S. has been a safety net for people escaping violence, looking for work or pursuing a better education, even though instruction may be in another language.
“It was really hard to do my homework [at first] because everything was in English,” said freshman Jennifer Westling, born in Stockholm, Sweden. “[I knew] just a little [English], just the basic words.”
For some, English is taught from a young age and into higher education. Arfi learned English in high school and also lived in England for 11 years.
English is the most spoken language worldwide. According to a Raven Report survey, 39 percent said their first language was not English. In the same survey 81 percent of the students knew two languages, among them Spanish and French.
The millions of immigrants that move each year are bringing new ideas, enriching the United States’ culture.
Other cultures can differ from the United States’.
“Yangon is small and overpopulated. So when you have more people, it is hard to maintain cleanliness. When I first got here I was like ‘Wow, this place is very clean,’” Wong said. “When you come to school at 8:30, the school is pretty clean. After lunch, there is trash everywhere, that is like Burma. U.S.-Burma, Burma-U.S., in one day you can experience both.”