RHS senior moves to United States to have more opportunities


Lillian Zieger

Senior Valentina Florez is working on her chrome book in her fifth hour Economics class.

There are new seniors from other schools or maybe even other states, but senior Valentina Florez joined RHS from Columbia, moving to the US about a year ago.
“In my country there is a political situation, and I didn’t have opportunities for my study, or progress,” Florez said.
Making a big move from Colombia is not an easy decision, nor an easy adjustment; after all, it is a totally different lifestyle.
“It is hard with the English,” Florez said. “I do not understand a lot of it.”
Spanish is Valentina’s first language so it is difficult for her to have to learn how to read, write, and speak English, to be able to learn.
“She is such a hard worker,” Spanish teacher Michaelyn Zalewski said. “She is open to learning new things and works on any challenges that come her way.”
In Colombia there are only eleven grade levels, technically she already graduated in Colombia; but since there are twelve grade levels in the United States she is completing her senior year here at RHS.
“She is super nice, and very sweet,” senior Jordyn Guyzik said. “She is also really funny. She’ll show me things in Spanish and then translate it for me.”
Since Valentina has been here at RHS, she has gotten to experience different things that her school in Colombia didn’t do.
“My favorite memory of Valentina is homecoming week,” Guyzik said. “She didn’t know what the dance was, so I helped her pick out a dress. It was a lot of fun.”
School is also run differently here compared to Colombia. In Colombia she was in one classroom for the whole day, so this is her first time having to change classrooms for different subjects throughout the day.
“Valentina is very smart; she’s really friendly; and she is motivated. She shows that she really wants to learn the language, and if there is anything she wants to do, she will do it,” Zalewski said.
Having to do all of her work in English, Valentina has to work even harder than before.
“The school here is harder than in Colombia,” Florez said. “I have to use Google Translate a lot to do my homework, and to understand most assignments.”
Valentina has Zalewski as her Spanish teacher for fifth hour, during which she has been working on her English.
“My favorite class is Spanish,” Florez said. “In this class, I have friends and I feel a little more comfortable. Everyone is really nice, they use Google Translate to help me understand.”
When Valentina got here at the start of the school year she knew very little English, but her work with Zalewski in her Spanish class has improved her ability to translate the Spanish to English words, so she can feel more confident and comfortable here at RHS.
“When she is in my class I try and help her relate the words so then she can make some connections on her own,” Zalewski said. “But the kids help her in the class, and they use Google Translate to help her out.”
School in Colombia starts at 6am and goes until 1pm, compared to RHS’s 8am until 3pm.
“Valentina never complains, she always has a smile, and from the beginning of the school year,” Zalewski said. “She has come in focused, and driven to learn.”
Valentina’s hope for her future is to do something political as her job.
“Now that I am here in Michigan, I can do more things than I could in Colombia. I am really happy that I moved here,” Florez said.
Valentina wants to go to college, but she is just unsure as to where she wants to attend.
“Now that I am here I can do something in my future. In Colombia it was different but here I want to go to college, and experience more,” Florez said.
In her free time Valentina really enjoys dancing, playing volleyball, and spending quality time with her family.
“I love dancing,” Florez said. “I feel really happy and free when I dance.”
Valentina really enjoys listening, and dancing to music, but the music is very different between Colombia and here.
“The music sounds a lot different, like the rhythm and lyrics are not the same as in Colombia,” Florez said.
Colombia is a very beautiful country, with a warmer climate than here in the U.S.
“I miss Colombia,” Florez said. “It’s where I was born, and it is very pretty there.”
When Valentina was in Colombia she was generally a more social person, but since she has to speak English here she tends to talk less than she usually would in Spanish.
“She is a little shy, but she still tries to listen and understand,” Guyzik said. “It’s kind of hard though, because people will have a conversation with her and they don’t realize that she can’t understand what they are saying.”
Not being completely fluent in English can be difficult for Valentina to express herself, and to make close connections with people.
“I see that she tries to explain her feelings and ideas, but the language barrier is really tough. She never gets discouraged though, and the other students will work with her and don’t get irritated,” Zalewski said.
Valentina doesn’t do much out of school or within the Wyandotte community.
“I like playing volleyball, but I don’t do it at school,” Florez said. “I just go to school and then come home. I don’t do much other than that.”
There are many things in the United States that Valentina can experience, and travel to do and see.
“I have not done anything really, but I do want to try many things here in the future,” Florez said.
When Valentina lived in Colombia she would celebrate Christmas on December 24 rather than the 25; this is because in Colombia they celebrate novenas [“ninth’], which finishes on December 24 when the birth of Jesus is celebrated.
“In my country, we would celebrate some of the same holidays as we do here, but they would be on different days. Like Valentine’s day for you is celebrated in February, we would celebrate it in September,” Florez said.
Moving to a completely different country is very challenging, and can be difficult at times.
“I definitely think that it would be difficult if I was in her situation,” Zalewski said. “Since I know the difference between the languages I can’t imagine having to learn it so fast. But she has and she does not give up.”
Even in her intimidating situation Valentina always has a smile on her face, and a positive mindset throughout everything she does.
“I do not have a favorite between Colombia and here,” Florez said. “But, I am very happy to be here, and to have more opportunities for my future, and the people that I have met so far.”