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New Life

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New Country, New Life, and New Lessons in Leadership

By: Iraida Josefina Bethencourt

The thought of moving to a new country to start a new life would be a terribly frightening prospect to anyone, but it never crossed my mind that I would ever have to take that step myself. But that is exactly what happened to me and in the process I learned what it really meant to be a leader.

I was born in Venezuela and had a very happy life there until the political and economic situation became extremely difficult for my family. Because my father was openly opposed to the socialist government there, it limited him greatly and put our family in danger. When the situation there became even more difficult, my parents decided to move our family to North Carolina to begin a new and safer life in the United States.

I was just entering my teenage years when we moved, however I was old enough to realize the changes and challenges I was about to face. I was leaving my extended family and friends behind, had to learn a new language, go to a new school, and basically confront everything "new" in the United States. This was both scary and exciting at the same time.

Very soon the first day of school came, and I took the "yellow bus." It was like a dream. I had always seen the yellow bus that children took to school when I watched movies at home, but I never thought I would ride on one! When I started school, there were certain things I had difficulties with, however my English was decent, thanks to my parents. Since my dad was born of an American father and a Venezuelan mother, he grew up speaking both Spanish and English. So my dad decided to carry on the tradition of speaking two languages in our home as well. To help us keep the languages separate, he spoke only English to me and my siblings while we would speak only Spanish to our mom and with our friends. This allowed us to learn and speak both languages. Nevertheless, when I moved to North Carolina I still had to learn the colloquial sayings and idioms.

Each of us in our family had individual challenges and issues in moving to a new country. However, somehow we came together and found comfort and strength in each other. We realized that the power of a united, happy family could overcome any language or social barrier. We realized what truly mattered in life: family, friends, being there for each other, and love.

However, there was one question that we all struggled with: Now that we had moved to the United



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