My name is Wiro. I am from Burma. I speak Karen. I am fourteen years old. I have three brothers and three sisters. I live in Oakland with my family and I am in 9th grade.

I will tell you about my life experience. When I first came to the United States I didn’t speak English. I came to school and I didn’t know anything. I was very afraid. Many people were from different countries, and I didn’t know anyone. I had to work at school and I didn’t know how to do anything, but I was too afraid to ask the teacher or any a question.

At first, English was very hard for me. I had six classes and I really had to work hard. I had too much homework and I didn’t know how to do it. The teacher would talk and speak English, but I couldn’t understand anything! Another problem in class was I didn’t know anyone. Some of the students didn’t like me, but I just tried my best. I always respected the teacher and kept trying.

My school in the U.S. was very different than school in the refugee camps in Thailand. Classes there were both easier in some ways and more difficult in others. It was easier in the refugee camp school because I could speak my native language. I could understand the teacher too. But it was more difficult because I always had to memorize words, numbers, and problems. And if I could not remember or memorize something, the teacher would come around with a stick and hit my hands or my side. Sometimes I would have to stand up and jump up and down until my legs got tired if I forgot to memorize something.

So school in the U.S. was more difficult than before in the camps, but it was only because I couldn’t speak English. After five months, I could speak English a little better. I’m very shy and nervous, but I tried to ask a question to the teacher to help me. I also started to play soccer and enjoyed that a lot.

When I got to seventh grade, my English was much better than when I arrived. I was not really shy to ask the teacher a question and I know many English words now. But I still have to work hard and try my best.

"[Refugee Transitions’] after school program tutoring helped me learn English. [My teacher] was very nice. She loved people. I liked learning with her. She helped me with homework. I also learned talking to my friends who were Mexican or Chinese. We didn't know English but we tried our best.

I want to go to college. And then I'm not sure. I really want to be the soccer player, but I'm not sure. With soccer I try hard and I like it. But I don't know if I can be the professional or whatever. Another dream is I want to go help my country. I want to help them get freedom, help my people and country go teach the children, help them build a school, get an education. The army too. I want to join the military. You can live in the village. The army needs to be like security. I will pursue my dreams and go to college. I want to study to do the training thing to be strong. I have to go to college and learn more English to do that.

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AuthorRefugee Transitions