Breaking the silence
By Juliette M. Ruberté
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” — Nelson Mandela
Just before my senior year of high school, my parents made a decision that drastically altered my life. My father was offered a job in America and we were moving to California for greater opportunities and to live the American Dream. I was 200% against it.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico (PR), I grew up speaking, reading and writing in Spanish. Aside from the fact that PR was my home, my biggest concern was that I wasn’t fluent in English. While I had taken English courses as part of my school curriculum, I wasn’t prepared for the challenges ahead. Suddenly switching to English as my main language seemed impossible. After all, Spanish was not just my means of communication, it was part of my social identity.
When we arrived to California, I was forced to take English classes with freshmen students over the summer. I was irate. I had always been at the top of my class in PR. I begrudgingly attended, but said little. I was too self-conscious about my accent. Since I didn’t speak, I didn’t make friends. Instead, I spent a lot of time reading English novels and watching TV with the English captions turned on.
When my senior year started, I vowed to make every effort to break the silence and speak in English. I recall my history teacher called on me to read aloud. When I mispronounced the word “mechanic,” she made fun of me and the entire classroom laughed. I had several similar embarrassing experiences. I was desperate to go back home to PR. How could this be the American Dream? I was living a nightmare.
My dad told me that after high school, I either had to attend the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) or a local community college. I decided to apply to UCSD and devoted countless hours to studying English. I carried an automated translator, studied the dictionary, wrote essays for fun, and read, read, read.
After being accepted to UCSD, I applied to a summer program specifically designed to help minority students transition from high school to college. This program changed my life. Surrounded by other non-native speakers, it was here where I finally started to overcome the English barrier that I once thought impossible. By the end of the summer, I had passed the English assessment test and tested out of the ESL class.
Shortly after my freshman year at UCSD my family moved back to PR and I stayed to finish my degree. I had to work three jobs while being a full-time student. I met some fabulous mentors on campus who encouraged me to never give up. After graduating from UCSD, I was offered a full-time job at a local biotech company. Today, I have no doubt my communication skills play a crucial role in my professional success.
My struggles have taught me that the American Dream isn’t something you achieve — it’s something you strive for. I will undoubtedly encounter many other hurdles. But next time, I’ll just remember that anything is possible if you dare to try.
Juliette, who is based in our Carlsbad office, is one of the phenomenal human beings working at GoDaddy. #GoDaddyBrave; #GoDaddyLife