Alberto Mendoza Garcia - ESL Intensive
Alberto Mendoza Garcia arrived in the U.S. in 2010 from Guatemala. A schoolteacher by training, he had trouble finding meaningful employment and making connections in a country where he did not speak the language. After years of self-study, his wife encouraged him to take courses with Lehman College through the ESL Intensive Program. His experience with Lehman has left him feeling more confident and given him the ability better able to express himself and understand the conversations around him. He was able to transition from a job as a janitor to working in shipping and fulfillment at a busy Manhattan electronics store and hopes to one day get certified to teach here in New York City.
How long ago did you take ESL courses?
I think the last time I was studying at Lehman College was in 2020 during Covid. For me, it helps if someone doesn’t know how to talk with people and in the class, the teacher explained how to interact with people at work, and how to have conversations, which has helped to apply English to real life. It helped me to figure out how to live in this country, in New York City: how to speak with people and how to live in the community.
I found the courses on the Lehman website. Was a housekeeper at a university in New Jersey before I came to the Bronx. I stopped working when we moved and I decided to study. My wife looking for classes for me, and she found Lehman College.
What were your goals with taking the class?
There were a lot of reasons. My wife’s family speaks English. It helped when looking for a job. But it’s really good to communicate with people. In the subway, on the street…sometime people ask me something, and when I didn’t understand, I couldn’t answer them. I needed to communicate with them.
It’s important for work of course, but English is important everywhere, for everything.
What was the experience of arriving in the U.S. and not speaking English like?
It was difficult. I was quiet because I couldn’t speak English. In my first year, I couldn’t talk, and sometimes I had to ask my wife what people were saying to me. I went to Wisconsin – my wife’s family had a family reunion, and everyone was speaking English so I didn’t understand so I didn’t talk. It was difficult. Not understanding was the worst part.
Which classes did you take specifically?
I took reading, writing, and grammar as well as listening, speaking, and pronunciation. Now I can read the newspaper, magazines, and books, all of which help improve my listening and speaking. If we had questions or didn’t understand what was explained to us, our instructor always helped.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give someone who arrived today?
It’s really important to study English. When someone gets here, they should go to study and that’s it. It’s necessary. Prioritize it before you work, because if you don’t, you might get distracted. Go to college quickly. It doesn’t feel good if you can’t talk with people, or be quiet when someone wants to talk with you. Having good English skills gives you a choice. Yes, I can speak Spanish, but everyone here speaks English, so that gives you choice that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And be patient–sometimes you feel like oh, I can’t do this in the U.S. For example, I was a teacher in my country. When I came here I thought “I don’t like this work I’m doing.” But everything takes time. If you were a professional in your country and you come to the U.S. you can’t get the job you want without English, but you have to work, so you have to accept what you have. But be patient–study English and you can change the circumstances.