By Liz .
Grade 11, Washington
Country of Origin: Philippines

Maria moved to the United States in 1995, along with her eight family members. Originally from the Philippines, Maria still bears an obvious accent, and it's plain to see that she's not the average American student.

There is some unspoken confidence inside of her, with which she makes the most of her extremely petite frame.
''I moved here in the beginning of eighth grade,'' she remembers, ''and my Grandpa said, 'you'll be fine, Maria.' But the teacher, she spoke so quickly! So I would just say 'yes' to everything.''

She smiles widely and demonstrates this to me. ''Do you understand?' 'Yes,' (nodding her head slowly and drawing out the word). 'Then don't you think that you should go back to class now?' 'Yes.''' She averts her eyes and turns away meekly, then quickly turns to face me. Her eyes gleaming, she bursts into a fit of giggles.

''Those times were really hard for me,'' Maria explains confidentially. ''People would whisper and tease me all of the time. I could understand what they were saying, 'She looks strange,' or 'She's so ugly.' In the Philippines, they might do that, but they are a lot friendlier. That's how I would describe them.''

Another significant difference Maria has noticed between her homeland and her new surroundings is regarding family. ''Yes! There are a lot of differences that I have noticed! First of all, it's like there's no respect for the parents here, you know what I mean?'' Illustrating this in greater detail, ''We pay more attention to speak the proper words with our parents, and we don't talk about them behind their backs. If we have a problem, we go home and talk to them about it.''

Maria lives with her mother, father, sisters and brothers, and her grandparents. Her aunts and uncles from her mother's side of the family all live nearby.

''Also, we dress up to go out of the house.'' Every member of the family had different types of clothing to wear in and out of the house. ''I stayed out of the house all the time, as long as my parents allowed me!''

For recreation, Maria says that everything has stayed about the same, ''I like to hang out with my friends, play games, and just to talk.''

Maria's family moved here to Washington State over the course of about a decade. Her parents and grandparents saw opportunities and good schools. ''We had to wear uniforms [in our schools in my town], and the teachers lectured a lot more. Here there is room for sports, and [there are] school activities.''

In the Philippines, there are only two types of schools -- elementary (grades 1-6) and high school (four years) -- and citizens attend only until age 14 or 15. Maria says that America doesn't seem all that different. ''At first it didn't seem it was America, but [only] for a few days it was different.''

Here in Washington, everything is very green and, ''There are trees everywhere, not just in one place,'' Maria smiles as she says this.

All in all, Maria sums up America in these five words: ''It is a nice place.''

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