I’ve been lucky enough to experience the amazing feeling of adopting a new country as my homeland twice in my life. My family immigrated to the United States from Israel when I was six years old. I was too young to fully process the experience, but I do remember being afraid to speak this new language (and what a funny alphabet!), and the overwhelming sense of loneliness when I couldn’t find my older sister at recess on the first day of school.
I remember my parents struggling to make our new American life as easy and comfortable as possible for me, my sister, and my brother, while they struggled to learn the language, integrate into the culture, and make ends meet. But we made it through! We made friends, learned the language, and were ultimately accepted wholly and unconditionally into American life. I love the fact that, thirty-five years later, as I interview her about her immigrant experience, my mother confidently tells me that she is a proud Israeli and a very proud American citizen to boot.
I moved to Colombia straight after college and decided to make that country my home for the following eight years. The experience of being an immigrant at the age of 22 was very different from that of being a 6-year-old immigrant, but I will never forget how warmly I was accepted into every part of Colombian culture and life. That feeling will stay with me forever.
This is what I want immigrants and refugees new to the United States to experience. I want them to feel the warmth and acceptance that I felt as an immigrant, both in the United States and Colombia. I know that the least we can do as a country is to extend the same courtesy and love to others that was extended to us.