Our Stories

Coming Full Circle

by Nora Hunt

I always mull on how the events of life can dramatically alter the pre-planned thoughts we have for our future.

I was born in the USSR in what is now Kazakhstan, and was a Russian citizen. I always liked to learn languages, thus I became a teacher of Russian language and literature in a high school in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This was my future. But the summer of 2006 was destined to reshape my life in a completely unexpected way.

When I moved here I was immediately immersed in newness. Everything around me was different: a new country, a new people, a new culture and language. I immediately wanted to learn to see, understand, and embrace my new home- everything seemed so easy! But it turned out that it is absolutely impossible without a good knowledge of English. As a linguist I found it very difficult to grasp and accept that, suddenly, my speech was now far from perfect. I was determined to go forward and learn, understanding that this was a long road to travel. I understand that, yes, my accent will stay and remain as part of my identity, but everything else is mutable and can be improved to perfection.

So on the day after my wedding, I was sitting in the Adult Learning Center. Rather than go on a honeymoon, I eagerly chose to study English, my new language. I could not wait to sit down again at a desk and start to acquire new knowledge.

I spent a year at the Adult Learning Center, found new friends, and started to loosen up on my speech. The mix of students at the Center meant that I had to learn to understand and distinguish between many other accents. I learned to smile when I spoke even if my jaw hurt for the first couple of months, and became more comfortable with asking questions and engaging in conversation. I felt very comfortable in the Center’s environment, and so I stopped monitoring and criticizing myself- all of us were in the same boat and were very patient and understanding with each other.

These changes would not have happened without constant encouragement from our teachers; I remember one teacher saying a very interesting thing to us when we started to worry about our very uncertain futures: “You are not born as failures, and you are not born as winners, but you were born as choosers.”

I remember thinking at that moment: I choose to be successful!

After finishing the Center’s course, I enrolled in an EFL language course at Nashua Community College. When I came in the door, I was able to express myself and communicate my thoughts quite passably, not only verbally but also in writing. Thanks to the Center’s program which included writing short essays, I was able to dive confidently into writing at NCC. In that NCC program I took a placement test that showed my English proficiency was sufficient for me to take composition courses.

In NCC I tried to change careers. I studied and graduated from their Paralegal program, but I found myself missing teaching. What I wanted to do, or more precisely return to, was to be a teacher, but this time teaching English.

I love the English language and I understand the hope and excitement of people who make their first steps on the road to success in their new country. After all, our very first essay at the Center was about how we see our future here in America. That essay was, for me, the first time I ever truly shared my thoughts, hopes, and anxieties about my new life here. Each of us had poor vocabulary and bad grammar, but we all wrote honestly, because we understood: here we are all equal, even if our pasts and futures were different.

I remember my teachers, and especially Nancy Marsh, who first told us about American traditions, holidays and were happy for our first successes.

Today am a student for a master’s degree in SNHU, and my teaching practice has come full circle. My teaching practice is at the Adult Learning Center. I am very proud of my achievement. I realized that I made the right choice when one student at the Adult Learning Center told me: “So, we all can achieve our goals. Thank you for sharing your story with us”. And like one of my teachers I would say yes, you can succeed, if you remember that success occurs when opportunity meets preparation. And preparation starts here, at the Adult Learning Center.