English in Action: The English-Speaking Union

Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center

Three ARNIC Members Win NYU Essay Competition

This year three members of the Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center (ARNIC) at the English-Speaking Union (ESU) won the prestigious essay competition of The Literacy Review journal published by New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Studies. 

The Literacy Review is an annual journal of writing from adult literacy programs throughout New York City. Edited by Gallatin students, the book is distributed as a celebration of powerful storytelling and includes readings by the newly published writers.
Congratulations to: Mariam Cessouma for her winning poems, Survivor and Orphans, Aung Zaw (Andrew) Lin for his essay Coming to America (printed below), and Falonne Billy for her essay You Are Coming Back Again. These poems and essays were written for the Writing Skills English class taught by ARNIC instructor Angela Wilkins. Angela is passionate about developing the writing skills of our new immigrant English learners. Students in her class write stories about the moment they departed their country and arrived in the United States, as well as other memories, emotions and experiences of immigration.
In May NYU Gallatin will host a large reception to honor the winners and teachers and to celebrate the distribution of the newly published issue of The Literacy Review. The talented 20 winners will read their essays and poems to an audience of over two hundred people.
ARNIC's previous winners of the essay competitions include: Maryna Naksen and her essay The Immigrant Experience (Spring 2014, teacher: Robert Speziale); and Elena Adasheva and her essay Colors of New York (Spring 2015, teacher: Angela Wilkins). Their essays can be found online in the previous issues of the journal here.  

Coming to America
by Aung Zaw (Andrew) Lin, Burma/Myanmar, an ARNIC member
Sea birds fly overhead. The boats are reflected in the water. The Statue of Liberty is set perfectly in this beautiful scene. I have been sitting on a bench for an hour and staring at the views. The coffee in my hand has cooled down. Some images from the past show up in my mind; probably I am home sick. Today is the anniversary of my arrival in America.
Most Asians know that family life is their priority. I went to my parent's house a couple of days before I departed. I listened to Elvis's songs before I went. We had breakfast together. "Try your best, son, never give up, all right?" My old father still has a strong spirit to encourage me.  "Yes Sir! Loud and clear, Sir!" I replied, smiling.  "Don't waste money. Take care." my mom said, while holding my arms with pale hands.   "I promise, I'll never do that". I am used to giving positive answers. She looked at me with confused eyes. She knew her son very well.
Then I returned home. My two month old daughter was sleeping in my arms. I kissed her brow and handed her over to my wife. It was time to go to the airport.  "Kiss me and smile for me", I said, like John Denver, to my wife. She smiled.
A lot of thoughts appeared in my mind while I was waiting to board the plane. I remember my uncle Edward who departed from this airport thirty years ago. At that time, we had a custom that all relations had to go to the airport when someone went abroad. We sent him off with more than twenty five people. He cried, most relations cried, showed how they were sad. Three years later, he sent a letter to his mother who had wanted to go to America. He said "Ticket on the way." Maybe it was a transportation problem, but the ticket only arrived seven years later.
It was Edward who suggested I go to America while on a return visit. He found true love at age 53. He sent me to Niagara Falls, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the famous Disneyland and Key West in Florida. Later I drove in Florence, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico. I really enjoyed it. I am proud to live in America.
A big tour group crosses over beside me; I wake up from the past. The landmark of New York, the Statue of Liberty, is standing with dignity. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed the statue sculpture in 1876. He used his mother's face as a model. Mothers always have an important place. I pull out my phone and call my mother.
"Hello."  I hear a sweet voice. Now I really understand how much people respect their mothers. I want to see my mother and also want her to come America. "Mom, do you hear me?" I said. "Yes, I hear you very well, son," she answered.
Finally, I realize the only way to say what I want to say. I say, "Mom.......ticket on the way."

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