What it’s like to be an immigrant in high school


Annie Leow

Fiyameta Gashaw (10) immigrated to Memphis from Ethiopia about two years ago.

High school is often about stepping out of comfort zones, but some students experience this on a whole new level by moving to a new school, state, or, in many cases, country.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the percentage of high schoolers who come from immigrant families has risen since 1980. As this number increases, so does the need to acknowledge their stories.

One student, Fiyameta Gashaw (10) immigrated from Ethiopia to live with her father.

“It’s different—Ethiopia and here,” she said, recalling the transition.

In other cases, the situation is based on safety and education, two factors that drive people to America. One student shared that the decision to immigrate to America stemmed from a sense of necessity and growing danger in Honduras, the home country of this student.

The journey from Honduras to America was not an easy one.

“I haven’t been scared like that before,” the student said.

An experience like this is bound to have a profound impact on anyone, and the effects do not stop upon arrival in America, as shown by another student who also immigrated from Honduras.

“There’s some people that, just because you’re not from here, they look at you different,” the student said, while also adding that within the Spartan community, it is important to try and understand why people would choose to immigrate, despite risks they face.

As an example of why some would brave the uncertainty of a journey like this, this student described how the decision to come to America was heavily influenced by violent incidents in Honduras that made them and their family feel unsafe.

“I feel like if we stayed, it would have happened again,” the student said.

While some worry about the first day of school because it’s a new classroom with unfamiliar classmates, there are others who worry because it’s a new country with unfamiliar people. Learning to respect and accept these fellow Spartans is an integral part of growing as a school and as a generation.