Cindy Orsorio worked as a translator in Honduras, barely making enough money to live and eat. But with the help of others and a passion for education, Cindy begins a new chapter in her life in the United States.
Cindy Orsorio grew up in the center of Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras located in Central America. The country has a population of more than eight million people and the country is most known for producing minerals, tropical fruit and most recently clothing. The economy continues to improve but at a very slow pace. The distribution of wealth remains only with a few. Honduras is the sixth poorest and least developed country in Latin America, behind other countries such as Haiti and Nicaragua.
“Growing up in Honduras I lived with my aunt and uncle, my mom couldn’t raise and support me and she didn’t have a husband or money,” Cindy said. “She had to do what is best. My aunt and uncle have been married for 38 years and have five kids, three boys and two daughters. I am the youngest. They believed in real education, values being a priority. Be responsible and educated. Care about others. Real Catholic religious values.”[SlideDeck id=’398′ width=’100%’ height=’250px’] After graduating high school Cindy decided it was time to move out and start to live on her own. At this time she began teaching herself English from reading, television and music. Cindy also started to attend the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras for one year and worked at the same time, but said the education system in the country is not too good so she quit. Instead, she started working full time as a translator for a medical brigade company.
“Life was difficult,” Cindy said. “I was working to live and eat.”
One day while she was working Cindy met a couple from the United States working for the medical brigade. The couple was so taken with Cindy and her drive to better herself, they offered to be her sponsors so she could travel to the United States to attend college.
“They saw my spirit of wanting to go to school,” Cindy explained. “I always wanted to be a bilingual school teacher.”
Understanding Life Inside and Outside of the Classroom
Now three years later Cindy is 22 years old and a new student for the Fall 2011 semester at the College of Lake County in Illinois outside of Chicago. She is studying for her associate’s degree in elementary education and lives with the couple who sponsored her to get educated in the United States. This is her first time outside of Honduras.[SlideDeck id=’390′ width=’100%’ height=’250px’]
“The first couple of weeks it felt like a dream,” Cindy shared. “I kept thinking I can’t believe I’m here. Everything is new, clean and big. The experience so far has been overwhelming, but I’m learning new good things.”
After three months Cindy continues to try to get the hang out life inside and outside of the classroom.
“I’m trying to understand how [professors] teach,” Cindy laughed. “When we come here they explain how they score. Next Thursday, we have a quiz already? You don’t know what to expect.”
And outside of the classroom it’s not any easier understanding what’s going on. Cindy explained so far she doesn’t have any real friends, especially not any American friends.
“Americans think we’re from another country, so they can’t understand our cultures and they don’t like us and they try to avoid us,” Cindy explained. “It’s a cultural thing. Everyone gets scared they won’t get the culture. I am closer to international students in the same classes. American students are not close and not friendly.” Cindy continues to explain the barrier between American and international students.”International students feel afraid of not being accepted,” Cindy said. “They feel they will offend others. Americans think you’re trying to get something. I have class with students from Iraq, Japan and China. It’s hard to meet Americans because of the language barrier and cultural barriers. International students though have a common goal.”
But this experience so far hasn’t discouraged Cindy from getting involved around campus. She is active in the international club and participates in activities such as fundraising and helping other international students, such as buying books and helping students meet new people.
“We also counsel other international students and make them feel o.k.,” Cindy explained. “They’re not the only one that feels this way. Talking is the best way to get over those things.”
Cars, Running Water and Weather: What a Shock
While Cindy works to make friends, she is not missing the opportunities to dive into the American lifestyle.
“I am amazed how big everything is!” Cindy exclaimed. “You start to love it and live as Americans. There is the shopping and supermarkets and malls. You can shop by yourself and charge everything. Back home you needed someone and there were long lines to buy one thing. You also put gas in the car by yourself, back home there are people to do that for you. Driving here the streets are big and people drive fast! I’ve seen Corvettes, racing cars and limos.”
But when asked about the biggest cultural shock since being in the states is something probably most Americans don’t think about on a daily basis.
“Going to the bathroom!” Cindy laughed. “There is a shower and it always has hot water. You can wash like nothing. It’s the best part.”[SlideDeck id=’418′ width=’100%’ height=’250px’]
Cindy said she also appreciates the diversity so far as well. For example, she never saw people from India until she moved to the U.S.
“It’s such a big system, everything is real organized with different cultures,” Cindy said.
The weather is also something Cindy continues to get used to, both hot and cold.
“The weather at the end of July is so hot!” Cindy said. “Hotter than ever back home. “The color of the trees as the weather got colder is beautiful. I saw it before on TV, but now, it didn’t seem real. Like a fantasy. I got sick already due to the weather. It’s rainy and chilly.”
Advice and Plans After Graduation
After finishing up her associates degree, Cindy plans to transfer to other universities to complete her bachelor’s and master’s.
“After I’m done I plan to go back home and be a bilingual school teacher,” Cindy said. “When you have a U.S. degree, work opportunities are more. Other opportunities are also available if I’m not in education but still have a U.S. degree.”
Cindy advises if you are an international student and you are starting to feel discouraged while studying in the U.S., she said do not give up.
“Keep studying and keep going,” Cindy encouraged. “It’s hard to have a good life. When you feel homesick and lonely, don’t drop out of school. Don’t give up. Express your feelings. It’s how you feel at the moment. It will bring relief at the moment.”
Update October 30, 2011: Cindy plans to be driving at the end of October and continues helping international students like herself adjust to life and studying in the U.S.