In 2009, I came from St. Petersburg, Russia and landed on American soil.
I was 7 years old and had no idea what my life would be like. Coming from an orphanage, I was accustomed to a very different way of living.
From the minute the plane landed, I experienced incredible culture shock. Being young, I had no concept of the globe and where Russia was in relation to the United States. As far as I was concerned, Russia was Earth, and I had landed on Mars.
As some may know, Russian is VERY different from English. With 7 additional letters and its structural aspects, Russian is completely foreign to English.
My new parents barely spoke a word of Russian, making for quite comical, and at times difficult communication.
I was adopted with my best friend, Nastia, so I had someone to speak with, but we had to learn English. We came at the end of May and would be starting public school in September, so we had only three months to learn English.
My parents were immensely helpful in this process, reading books with us, having us listen to kid CDs with stories and music, and encouraging us to watch TV with English subtitles.
Many of the kid shows, like “SpongeBob” and “Tom and Jerry,” were shows we knew from Russia, so we picked up the language very quickly.
In the orphanage, we were used to five or six meals each day. This would include two snacks and dessert on occasion. When we arrived in the U.S., we learned that the custom here was to eat only three meals a day.
Being in a new country, I was hesitant to try certain foods. In Russia, I absolutely despised pizza. There were some places where the pizza looked like it was made of cardboard and red paint, not the most appetizing meal if you ask me.
When we were offered new foods, Nastia was more adventurous than I was, and I’d stare at her to see her reaction before tasting anything. I eventually learned to like pizza. Peanut butter was also foreign to us.
Living with a family was also new. Before the orphanage, I was an only child, and then a child among many in a building full of kids. Now, I had a room to myself, a dog, a cat, a sister, and loving parents.
As strange and new as everything was, we all knew that this was meant to be. My parents poured their heart, souls, time, and energy into making us feel at home and part of the family. Coming from a different culture and way of life, there were challenges we had to overcome, and my parents did everything in their power to help us through those hurdles.
Even though I’ve been with my new parents for close to 12 years, I feel like I have been with them my whole life.
The three months we had before school had flown by and it was time for us to start the new chapter of our lives. I was going into second grade and I was nervous, but excited.
The big yellow school bus filled with kids arrived at 7:45 a.m. near our house, and the next adventure in my American journey began.