Student of the week: Alyssa Rokhvarg shares her story about adjustment

Lindsay Binder, Editor

Her thoughts are racing around her head. It’s her first day of school in a new country. Like other kids, she enjoys TV shows, music, and other activities children her age appreciate. The only difference is, everything she loved was in an entirely different language. Unlike the other kids at her new school, who already knew basic reading and writing skills at the first-grade level, she was going to have to start from scratch. Fast forward almost a decade later, Alyssa Rokhvarg is now a sophomore at Neshaminy High School. 

Before she was born, her family moved to the US from Ukraine. A little while after their immigration, Rokhvarg was born. 

At the time, there was something politically wrong with Ukraine; something was going on with the government. So my Mom’s dad told us to go live somewhere better and embrace new opportunities. My dad’s brother already lived here, so it was an easy move,” Rokhvarg said. 

Adjusting to America was difficult for her family, and as Rokhvarg grew up, she started to feel the same way. 

“When I was little, I was still adjusting to America because my parents and sister are from Ukraine, and they had me here. But I was raised on all Russian and no English, and doing the things we did back home (Ukraine),” Rokhvarg explained. 

Growing up in America, young kids don’t understand the differences between people very well or many times that the differences even exist. All small children want the same thing, friends. She wanted everything to be smooth and easy, just like everyone else. As a young girl in school who could speak only Russian, Rokhvarg already had multiple elements working against her. 

It was challenging making friends, and I didn’t learn English until first grade and had a very heavy accent. I only had two Russian friends. Learning English at the time made it also difficult. I was also very shy with people,” Rokhvarg recalled. 

It didn’t take Rokharvg too long before she got down the school schedule. She was learning how to talk and write in English every day. Forming conversations was becoming easier, and so was making friends. 

It helped me realize I have to be more social. I already couldn’t really speak English, so I had that going against me. So I realized I had to put myself out there and form conversations socially,” Rokhvarg said. 

Rokhvarg wasn’t the only one in her family experiencing hardships. Like most non-English speaking families, when they go out in public, they are unfortunately more often than not to receive rude comments and insults thrown at them for speaking their home language. 

I wasn’t really made fun of, but my parents were given dirty looks because they were not fluent in English and had heavy accents. But over time, we learned to deal with it,” Rokhvarg acknowledged. 

Overall, moving to a new country is hard for any family. Despite having to learn a new language and having trouble making friends, Rokhvarg’s life had drastically changed from the time she was in the first grade. She says she likes living here and wouldn’t change a thing.

“I wouldn’t move there,” Rokhvarg announced. “I really like living here, and my parents moved because there problems with the government and had very limited opportunities. They made a better life here, and I like to travel, but I would never want to permanently move there.” 

Rokhvarg knows that she was never the only one in her situation. So many kids often are put in the same situation she was. 

Just to take it slow and don’t worry too much about it. Try to make friends that you are comfortable with while you are learning so they can help you if you need it,” Rokhvarg advised.