We all know that City Year unites young idealist from all around the nation (including as far from New Hampshire as Alaska!). But what’s more exciting than coming from different states, is that we are from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Corps members are sharing cultural values that we have all learned from our families with one another. Values and culture pieces like music, foods, dances, ways of life and even languages. As if learning from everyday service wasn’t enough, during our off hours we are still teaching and gaining from each other. On my specific Parker-Varney Elementary Team of eight, we are from eight different states, seven different ethnic backgrounds, and we bring five different languages to the group: Portuguese-Creole, Spanish, Japanese, French and English of course.
I’m from Connecticut but my family and I migrated to America in 1992 from Cape Verde.
Even though I’ve been in America for 18 years, there are plenty of cultural things that I will never let go of. Out of everything I learned from my family and from being Cape Verdean, here are things I’ve been sharing here: the perseverance of first generation migrants, the diligence of working for a degree, and my favorite, eating at the dinner table as a family on a daily basis.
It was difficult to adjust to American culture and difficult to learn the English language. My parents valued education and wanted us to succeed. I’ve discussed so much here at City Year about my college career and all the great things I gained, like studying at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom and having an internship abroad that led me to different places like Paris, Barcelona, and Berlin! Being able to have those opportunities took a lot of work that I adopted from my parents and the home life I was exposed to.
I miss my family very much here. One thing that we did together is eat dinner at our kitchen table every evening. I’ve been sharing that piece of culture with my roommates. Almost every night I cook for the two of them the same way that the Cape Verdean women in my family have taught me. We set the table with matching plates, glasses and silverware, all things that I learned from the Cape Verdean households I grew up with. Being family oriented is a huge part of the Cape Verdean culture and that is what I’m trying to build in my new home with my two roommates. Bringing this piece of culture with me to City Year gives me the sanity I need when I miss my family the most. I can never replace them, but it is nice to have a sense of love and reliability for the next eight months with the people I live with.
One roommate is Mexican and the other has Italian-Irish backgrounds, these informal exchanges of culture are an additional aspect of City Year that wasn’t promised to us but we are taking complete advantage of! What do you bring to the table?