Immigrating can be a challenging and frightening experience. Immigrants leave their homes and surroundings, family and friends and personal careers and professions in exchange of an unknown, but definitely a better future that their native countries aren’t able to provide.
“People can be alone without being lonely, or lonely in a crowd,” is an outstanding quote from a research paper by Rajni Sharma.
But this citation has a deeper message. It represents the reality of millions of immigrants in the United States around the world.
Adapting to a new country and its system is a constant, arduous process.
Unfortunately, people have the wrong sense and misconception of the term immigrant, especially in the Latino community, usually with insults and typical stereotypes calling us “illegals.”
The reality is that the meaning of immigration doesn’t involve your legal status. It refers to an act or instance of immigrating, specifically to travel into a country for the purpose of permanent residence. In New Jersey, there are millions of people who immigrated from different countries.
But people don’t even try understanding this, and many, in most of the instances, prefer to just ignore the problem, leading to discrimination against the community.
Of course, it makes the process of adaptation even harder by making these people feel lonely and misunderstood because they are restarting their lives from scratch.
Loneliness doesn’t only mean withdrawal from society, but also depression and constant nostalgia for being in a different environment. This feeling is better known as “homesickness.”
Unfortunately, not so many people know how to manage this phase, and it’s imperative that we acknowledge and address the issue of loneliness among immigrants with compassion and inclusion.
Language barrier is one struggle immigrants face when adapting to a new culture. According to the Open Cultural Center, for some migrant communities, struggling with communication due to language barriers is very common. Being said to be one of the top reasons as to why they are feeling lonely and isolated.
As an immigrant myself, I witnessed how it is to be raised and grow up with peers who immigrated to the United States and felt lonely during this new trajectory.
I grew up with immigrant parents and I am one too. For both me and my mom, the process of adaptation wasn’t easy.
I learned English out of the necessity to help my mother and myself, not because I enjoy learning a second language. There were times that I had to translate or interpret for my mom, even when my English wasn’t as fluent as it is now.
My mother took the same trajectory as I did but she joined English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. She made friends and was able to communicate.
Moreover, balancing school, work and being a mother was challenging for her, but she never gave up. Perseverance was always in her dialect and she graduated from New Jersey City University (NJCU) with a bachelor’s degree.
There were times she felt lonely, especially stepping out of her comfort zone.
Currently, my journey led to me becoming an ESL teacher where I am able to collaborate with my community and help students that come from different backgrounds learn that language and feel less lonely during this new adventure.
Undoubtedly, my students felt lonely and frustrated when they couldn’t express their opinion, eventually causing them to feel isolated in their first year in America. However, they were able to make new friends from different countries.
According to the article “As an immigrant, I know how it feels to be ‘lonely and isolated’ in my new country,” making connections with either studying or getting outside your comfort zone can lead to new opportunities such as meeting people who are in the same path as you are.
To address the issue of loneliness among immigrants, it is crucial to foster compassion and inclusion in our communities. We need to recognize the unique challenges that immigrants face and strive to create welcoming and inclusive environments that embrace diversity.
As an example, Montclair State University promotes inclusivity and helps those students who may feel lonely by promoting clubs, organizations, events and even classes that teach you to embrace your identity.
If you know someone who’s going through this process of loneliness, it’s always good to make them feel welcome and remind them they are not alone in this new chapter on their lives, and that we are ready to listen to their stories.