Familiar support

New student from the Democratic Republic of Congo gets used to American schools with help of past immigrants

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Familiar support

Thian Awi

Thian Awi

Thian Awi

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Less than two months ago, freshman Nickens Lemba came to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country in Central Africa. Without knowledge of language or schools in America, the only familiar aspect of his new country was basketball. In Congo, Lemba played basketball and had a coach who would record him and put it on YouTube. Lemba came to the United States after a basketball coach in America saw his video on YouTube and he helped him fly here. Now he is enrolled in SHS and learning to adapt.

Coming from DRC, he struggles with adapting to a different system of education in America. In Congo, students did not move from class to class throughout the day, the teachers, instead, moved throughout the day while the students stayed in their room.

“It makes it hard for me because I’m still not used to this system,” Lemba said through a translator.

Despite this setback, Lemba receives help from other Congolese students who have been in the U.S. longer. This makes it easier for him to adjust to the new lifestyle and the new cultures he’s facing.

“It was good for me to know other Congolese that I could be friends with,” Lemba said through a translator. “English is a hard thing for me to learn, but other Congolese students have helped me communicate.”

One of the Congolese students, senior Samuel Kile, sometimes translates for the new arrival. Kile has been in the United States for a little over a year and made the journey for the betterment of his education.

When he first came here, Kile realized how different America was from his home country. However, he also felt that it would be easy for him to get used to.

“It’s a different culture to get used to,” Kile said. “My first time here everything felt different, the culture and the climate were way different. But, I felt good. I felt that it would be easy for me to adjust to it.”

Unlike Lemba, Kile wasn’t able to receive much help from other Congolese students as there weren’t many at the time. He was one of the first from his home country. Kile says communicating was the hardest thing for him.

“I could not understand what my fellow friends were saying or what my teachers were saying,” Kile said.

To get through the language barrier, Kile practiced his English and concentrated on what he wanted to do without giving up. Kile views Lemba as a brother and has helped him with communicating with teachers and doing homework when he can or needs it because he knows what Lemba is going through.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Kile said. “If he needs help with homework, I help him. Sometimes I help him move from class to class when he needs it, and I translate for him when he needs it.”

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