I was 22 when I arrived in Rochester. Like most newcomers, I found a free school, downtown for improving my English. So my first ESL class as a full time student started at the Family Learning Center. The first day of school I was so nervous. The new buildings and the new teachers and the new students, everything was new for me. Fortunately, the teachers’ humorous teaching style made me feel pretty comfortable. They liked to talk and joke with students. We could talk about whatever we wanted. There was no limit in class. The teachers were more talkative than the teachers who had taught me in China. Back in China, teachers are usually standing on the dais giving serious lectures. And the students often are sitting in the chairs obediently and listening carefully because they don’t need to talk too much. Compared to the Chinese education system, I think the American way is easier to build a good relationship between teachers and students.
I never thought that one day I would study together with many classmates from all over the world. Some of them come from Europe. Some of them are from Africa. And others come from South America and Asia. Our class was almost filled at the beginning of school. At first, I didn’t know why the Family Learning Center was so popular. I guessed perhaps people came to study and they don’t have to pay. But later I realized that Rochester is becoming an international city. There are more and more immigrants from different countries here every year.The diversity of students was so different. I came from a small town of south China. And we didn’t have any black neighbors. I had just heard that black people did a lot of bad things. So at first I was a little bit scared when I met some black students. I had never had contact with any black people until I came to the United States. However, one guy completely changed my thoughts. His name is Hassan and he comes from Somalia. He was a slim guy with short hair. The first time I met him was at the George Eastman House. In order to better teach America culture, the school takes students to visit there. Hassan helped me find my lost bag at the house. He was so nice. He wasn’t like the guys I had heard about before. We took some pictures of each other. And after that, we became good friends. And almost every day we had a nice chat during the lunch, even though sometimes we couldn’t understand each other and we used body language. That was really funny. I learned a lot from Hassan.Sometimes you can’t depend on just what you hear, because you never know people before you meet them. We are all human beings. I learned a lot more than English at the Family Learning Center in Rochester.