On the Act of Immigrating

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

I’ll issue a disclaimer before I start: I wrote on basically the same topic, immigration, for my Common Application essay in 2014. Looking back, it was a cliché writing topic that I stressed over way too much. Today, though, immigration is still a topic that is close to my heart and always will be, as it is for numerous generations throughout history that have come before me. I thought it would be nice to rewrite the paper in the context of today’s news, and now that I am older.

My immigration story is a part of my life that is difficult to talk about, because the act itself was difficult. In 2007, had not the slightest inkling of what we were doing. I barely remember the moment when my parents announced to us that we, with the exception of my dad, were moving to the United States. I just went along with it. My dad would stay in the Philippines and continue to work while we would live in this mythical land called Virginia, a place with lots of trees, tall people, and snow at some points in the cold season.

The plane ride is long, and for me comparable to a teleportation machine. One enters the huge Boeing 777 smelling, hearing, feeling what is old and familiar, and leaves to find a completely alien environment. In my case, I was simply too sleepy and jetlagged to remember much. I had just binge-watched a few movies during the whole trip.

Adjusting is hard too. I stuck out like a sore thumb in my new school. When fall came along, I wore a thick winter jacket as I was not used to the cold weather. My teacher would nicely urge me to take it off so I wouldn’t look so out of place, but I refused. Because math was emphasized heavily in my old school, I could multiply faster than all of my classmates, and would get looks when I completed assessments much more quickly than anyone else. I did not understand the concept of recess. Recess in my old school was a snack time. When our teachers in the new school dismissed for recess time immediately after lunch, I immediately and falsely concluded that this was the reason why other nationalities described Americans as being so fat, because they ate so much. Who needs a snack time immediately after lunch?

My classmates did not understand where I came from or how I spoke such good English for an immigrant. Was I from Columbia? Was I related to Yao Ming? How much rice did I eat, and who taught me how to type so fast? Where is the Philippines? Such were the innocent, forgivable questions that fifth graders have for the new kid. For my part, I was just happy to answer that no, unfortunately, I was not related to Yao Ming.

There were nights that I was really sad. I missed my dad, my dog. I missed Jollibee and Pancake House. I really wanted to go home.

Sometimes I still do, but as I am typing this post a little bit more than 10 years after moving here, I have a newfound appreciation and respect for the immigration process that has molded and shaped me into the person I have become.

Immigration allows broader perspectives. I am innately a Filipino and American equally, and I have had the unique opportunity to compare the culture of a well-developed superpower versus the culture of a smaller, developing, but equally important country. I can change and better my arguments because of this first-hand perspective.

Immigration institutes perseverance. There are very, very few things in life that are harder than moving to an effectively alien land and forcing oneself to assimilate to the norms of the new location. Because of this, I know that immigrants can persevere through tough situations more easily, especially if their assimilation is a successful one.

Lastly, immigration provides a method for a clearer purpose. When I moved, my family made a ton of sacrifices to allow us a life in America. We are still making sacrifices today so that I may study in a world class school. Wouldn’t it be absolutely terrible for me to throw all of those sacrifices away, to not work hard to validate the sacrifices of my parents? Through this, I believe that all immigrants have a better sense of purpose than any other demographic group in the world.

I originally stated that I would write this paper in terms of today’s context. There is a lot of anti-immigration sentiment to go around, not just in America, but all around the world. That kind of sentiment exists in the Philippines too, albeit for different reasons than the western world. With everything that I have said above, it is hard for me to understand any anti-immigration sentiment, especially if the immigration is legal and done within the bounds of the law. I personally attribute the legendary greatness of America directly to immigration.

With all the good and luck that comes with being an immigrant to America, I am even luckier still. I did not leave my first home because of war, poverty or famine. We left because we could, and that is amazing in of itself. To me, today’s relative ease of being able to move from country to country is a symbol of America’s greatness and power in this world. Relaxing aspects of immigration law can only help to prolong this prominence. Meanwhile, closing borders because of some misleading nationalist sentiment can only work to shut out the talent and motivation that could thrive in these United States.


Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.