ELL Students Adjust to Waubonsie, American Life

Junior Ivan Wong is an ELL student from Venezuela. (photo credit / Maggie Korneta)

by Maggie Korneta, Reporter, The Beat

This year, Waubonsie Valley has had numerous students that have transferred here from different countries. Transferring schools, especially during high school, is already a challenge for most students who already live in the United States. However, students transferring from foreign countries experience a lot of stress when coming into the United States, due to the new environment and the new language that they have to learn to speak. 

Alessia Buettner-Dedering moved to Illinois from Germany just before the beginning of the school year. For her, the transition between countries has been difficult when it comes to speaking English. ”I think it’s hard because I am new and I can’t speak English very well,” said Buettner-Dedering. ”In Germany, it’s easier because I know the vocabulary best. Here I don’t understand much…it’s hard, but I’m getting used to it.”

Ivan Wong, whose home country is Venezuela, agrees with Buettner-Dedering when it comes to adjusting to the new language. ”I haven’t faced a lot of obstacles,” Wong said through a translator. “Learning English is hard but I have teachers that help me, and I use translators to ask questions.”

Favour Oladele, who moved here from Nigeria, hasn’t struggled much with the language, but she has noticed a lot of differences when it comes to the style of school in America. “The curriculum is different,” said Oladele. “At my old school, we take all subjects in the same classroom, but here we move from class to class.” Buettner-Dedering agrees with Oladele when it comes to the ways of high school in the United States. “We have a harder school system,” said Buettner-Dedering. “The things they do during junior year here is what we did in the ninth grade back in Germany.”

The English-language learners (ELL) program at Waubonsie Valley has been helpful for Wong. “It’s helping me to talk to people and learn new words for my classes,” he said. Oladele agrees that it is helping her build confidence when it comes to reading and writing English. She said her ELL teacher, Terry Wister, has been very helpful and helps her broaden her vocabulary. ”It’s really fun living in a new country. I’ve met a lot of new people and made a lot of new friends. It’s been easy for people to communicate to me.”

For Wong, making friends at Waubonsie has been very easy for him. “I play baseball, so I’ve made a lot of friends. I make friends in class, and I’m also in cross country, so I meet new people there too.” Buettner-Dedering also said people have been nice and helpful, but there are some struggles. ”I think it can be very hard at times to make friends because I don’t know the people and I don’t know who I can trust,” she said. “I have my neighbor who is very nice and friendly, but it’s easy to see that not every person wants to have new friends.”

Although it has been fun being in a new country for all three, there are a lot of things each of them miss. Buettner-Dedering especially misses the convenient shopping malls back in Germany. “In Germany, we have one city with so many stores and it’s much easier to go shopping,” she said. “Here it is very confusing because there are a lot more cities, and there are many different places with many different stores.”

All three miss their family and friends, and Wong said, “Venezuela is going through some challenges and difficult times which makes me worry about my family and friends back home.”   Oladele added, ”I miss my friends back home, but I’m having a good time here.”