Mamadou Lamarana Bah

I was born in Senegal, grew up in Guinea, living with my family in an affluent neighborhood.  After I graduated in Instrumentation and Maintenance in 2011, I stayed without a job for a few months. It wasn’t a good time, so I decided to leave. I went to Brazil where I lived for 2 years; it was wonderful place that I really love, but my family kept nagging me until I agreed to leave Brazil.

In this world you should never lose hope, everything can change for you in seconds. I had never thought that one day I would be in the USA. After 2 years of adventure, it’s still unbelievable for me to find myself in USA. When I arrived, I was in California where I had some trouble, the police picked me up and handed me over to the Immigration authorities. I decided to fight my case. Fortunately I won it, but it was the most difficult moment in my life. Some things can happen in your life for a reason, they may be sad and disappointing, and then out of it comes happiness. Sometimes life can hit you on the head with a brick, but don’t lose faith. It takes sadness to know happiness and absence to value presence.

I moved to New York at the end of spring 2014. My first time on the Brooklyn Bridge I remembered that I used to see this bridge on the movies and now I’m living the movie. When I saw the subway, it was unbelievable for me: it’s weird, full of trash and very hot compared to California or Brazil.

For my first interview I wasn’t confident about myself but they told me that my English was good for just 7 months in the country. Even with that I was feeling bad because I don’t like it when someone asks me 2 times what I said. I was working as a stock guy in a store where they sell women’s clothes. Sometimes people wanted to talk to me but I was always shy about my pronunciation, until they complained that I didn’t talk, and I said I didn't like to talk because my English isn't good. Some encouraged me to talk. I stayed with that job for 3 months, working during the daytime, so I didn’t have time to go to school.  I decided to quit. I told myself that the language is the first step to get better life and respect. After 1 week I found a job in a hotel where I feel little bit happier than my last job.

Then I started with English Speaking Union. I really appreciate the way they teach. I was taking classes only on Saturdays for 3 months, but since I’ve been with ESU I feel confident about myself because I changed lot of things just in 6 months. I would like to thank all of them for everything they have done for me.

As an immigrant, people don’t recognise your skills or your qualifications. You don’t have connections. For a few months, I felt very isolated and despondent. However, after a while, I felt a degree of confidence, security and contentment in my relationship with the world outside my family. Immigration is a word generally used in a pejorative sense, and the immigrant is often conceived as the "other", without any recognition of any positive contribution he or she might be making in society. I feel very disappointed that despite the wish that many –if not all - of us have to participate in various cultural and social activities, we are still regarded suspiciously, particularly if we do not conform to the ethnic stereotypes that are commonly held. It is hard not to feel a sense of being an "outsider" and not quite fitting in society or being accepted by many within the native population. Fortunately, I come from a culture and a background that values education and that gave me the strength not to give up. If we see our problems as problems, they will continue to hold us down. See them as blessings in disguise and that is how they truly will become. So don’t give up!

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