“My name is Fanny. I will have been here in Arkansas for one year in January. I am a student at OLC, which I like because it gives me education in language. I’m very happy because I needed English; when I didn’t speak English, I had challenges, obstacles. I don’t feel good when I can’t speak English, and I wanted to feel good about myself. I wanted to learn everything, everything!
It’s very nice to be in Arkansas because the community is very, very nice. I’m living comfortably here. My neighbor is very nice. She helps me when I have problems. I had to renew my passport, and that was very nerve wracking. I asked my neighbor to help because you need a picture from the front, no smile; it is very strict. She said, ‘I don’t know all the rules, but let me check.’ She told me to go to the post office, but I didn’t want to drive. So she took me there, and waited with me. I needed her.
Here I have one family member, my niece. She is a professional; she works in Bentonville, at the hospital. And her husband works in Coca-Cola. They have two children. But I don’t have any more family here. I want to go to Florida, because in Florida, I have friends; I lived there a long time. Maybe in the future I can visit.
I was born in Colombia, South America. My city, Bucaramanga, is medium sized. It is close to Venezuela. Both of my parents passed away. I have six siblings; two sisters and four brothers. I moved to the U.S. for more opportunities. In my country, I was a professional; I was working. But I wanted this experience, to know about the culture of the U.S. I was married here for a long time, and I got residence; eventually we separated. I continued to live here because I like the United States. I’ve visited my country, but only a few times; my life is here.
Arkansas is very far away from Colombia. The food is really different; I miss the food in Colombia! We’d eat cassava, yucca, beans, arepas, empanadas, Dulce De Guayaba candies; delicious! There’s a lot to Colombia. Geographically, it’s very interesting; it’s like here, full of hills and mountains. It touches the two oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific. Colombia has poets, paintings; Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Botero. They even discovered a malaria medicine in Colombia!
I like to go on the OLC museum visits, to see the art. The pictures amaze me. I like looking at the paintings and asking why they use that color, who is in the portrait, the season being portrayed. It’s beautiful. The guides are excellent; they are very kind and organized. And the school [OLC] provides transportation, so I can go.
Spanish is composed differently than English. They tell me to think in English, because it’s very different! This school has excellent teachers. I’m very comfortable, and this school gives me self-confidence. Everyone here, the secretary, Mina [the program director], the teachers, are excellent people. They are friends. So I’m comfortable. OLC is the best school for learning English. Oh my gosh, there’s such a big difference [in my English] from when I first came here! Before, I wouldn’t speak to other people; I was scared, I would panic. Now, no more; I speak in front of people. This country is a good experience. Sometimes there are obstacles, but you push. It’s your life; you need to live it.”