Personal Accounts

No two immigration stories are the same: people migrate for different reasons at different points in their lives.  The causes listed below are personal accounts of friends and peers from my hometown.  Living in a diverse town provides exposure to people of so many cultures and nationalities.  Because of the diversity, most of my friends come from immigrant families or are immigrants themselves.  Though each story is unique in nature, they all exhibit the same prevalent themes seen in the narrative of every immigrant.

Italian flag (Wikipedia)

My Story: As mentioned on the homepage of my site, I am the daughter of two immigrants.  My mom came to New Jersey at eleven years old from Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Both of her parents migrated to Argentina from Italy, so they made two major moves in their lifetimes.  My mom grew up in the city of Buenos Aires with all of her relatives.  A number of her aunts and uncles migrated to New Jersey, and both of my grandparents decided to migrate as well in hopes that their three children would have better futures.  Upon arriving, my family did have an easier transition due to family members already migrating.  My mom and her family moved to Fairview in Bergen County.  On the other hand, my dad grew up in the Campania region of Italy.  Similar to my maternal grandparents, my dad’s parents made the decision to come to America for better opportunities for my dad and his brother.  Some of their family also lived in America already, and they moved to Garfield.  Both of my parents expressed to me that upon arriving in New Jersey, they were unhappy.  They missed their homes, friends, and their old lives.  Because my parents were younger, they were able to learn English quicker than my grandparents.  My grandparents had a more difficult time because they worked with those who spoke Italian, so it was not as imperative to learn it at the time.  Despite their experience as children, my mom and dad acknowledge and are grateful for the opportunities that New Jersey offered to them.

Macedonian flag (Wikipedia)

Ivana’s Story: Ivana was born in Macedonia and came to New Jersey in 2008 at just eight years old.  Because her parents wanted a better life for her and her sister, they applied for a U.S. Green Card.  They did not expect to get it, but upon their acceptance, her family went through the immigration process and moved to New Jersey.  Their transition and adjustment was easier than expected because her uncle was already here.  They were also fortunate in meeting their landlord who was half Macedonian, so it was easier to communicate with her more so than with anyone else.  It took Ivana and her sister about eight months to feel that they learned enough English to talk to others, but it was still difficult to communicate.  Ivana also expressed finding comfort in meeting other Macedonians wherever they went, as it felt like a piece of home.  Because her parents had a more difficult time adjusting to life in America, Ivana learned English faster and had more family responsibilities in her household being the older sibling.  Since moving to New Jersey, Ivana is now in college and plans to pursue a career in business.

Armenian flag (Wikipedia)

Aleen’s Story: Aleen was born in New Jersey, and her background is Lebanese-Armenian.  Her dad first came to the U.S. from Lebanon at fourteen years old to escape from the war.  His family planned to move to California but came to New Jersey because there was a job opening for his father.  They settled in West New York due to the close proximity to New York City.  Upon arrival, they found that the culture was very different and having been out of school for five years, her dad and his brothers found the transition to school to be difficult as they did not speak English.  They found an Armenian church nearby with a rich ethnic community and found solace there, eventually adapting to life in New Jersey.  Aleen’s mom, on the other hand, was the only one born in New Jersey out of her migrant family of four who came from Jerusalem.  They settled in North Bergen because she had family who previously migrated there, so they were able to help.  Aleen’s grandfather resumed his work as a shoe cobbler in New York City, where the urban area allowed him to utilize mass transit.  It was easier for her mother’s family to transition than it was for her father’s, but they both shared the same concerns and felt like outsiders for a period of time.  Now, they are grateful they migrated.  Once her parents married, they considered moving to Pennsylvania but ended up remaining in New Jersey because of their ties to their families as well as to their jobs and church.

Bengali flag (Wikipedia)

Aaron’s Story: Aaron’s family comes from Bangladesh.  His grandmother’s brother came to New Jersey to go to college, and then he brought Aaron’s grandparents, and then eventually, most of his family migrated to New Jersey one by one.  Upon their arrivals, there were very few Bengali people.  Their journey was not incredibly difficult because they had help from his grandmother’s brother; however, his grandparents worked hard to support their four daughters.  Throughout the years they worked multiple jobs, but the hardest part of their transition was the language barrier.  Aaron was born in New Jersey but expresses his gratitude for all of the sacrifices his family made that allow him to have the life he does today.  Now, towns such as Paterson have a large Bengali population that Aaron and his family are able to connect and relate to.

New Jersey would not be the same state if these kinds of experiences did not exist.  Despite each story being different, they are all possibilities of the American dream.  New Jersey is home to Italians, Macedonians, Armenians, and Bengalis among so many others.  People migrate to New Jersey for economic reasons, political and religious freedom, and for better futures; these narratives allow immigrants from another country to connect and find comfort in knowing that they are not alone.