What a Journey

The struggles of a student-immigrant

What a Journey

Nicholas Finn, Staff Writer

The strong, stinging pain of a long-thin wooden stick whipping across your body. This was the usual punishment for students that did not behave in class, or who did not fully follow instructions. This is what junior Kyla Schwarting went through at school as a child.

The school systems in Kenya were very strict and disciplined their students during school. Schwarting was a student at one of these schools in her hometown and remembers vividly the agonizing pain of the long flexible stick the teachers normally used, slashing at her legs. The brutal punishment left giant-purpled bruises across her body. Life in Kenya for Schwarting was significantly more difficult than the way her life is now in the United States.

She was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where she lived with her parents and her older sister, senior Naisy. As a child, she enjoyed doing the normal activities that every child loves to do, like playing soccer and socializing with friends.

Most children would rather play than to go to school, main reason being that the teachers were always strict with them. Schwarting remembers one time when she was talking to another student while the teacher was lecturing and the teacher caught her. The teacher went up to her and smacked her knuckles with a ruler. The ruler left a long lasting stinging pain that was very hard to ignore throughout the rest of her school day. When she returned from school, her mother Lilian, felt sorrow for her when Schwarting cried onto Lilian’s lap from the pain.

Besides school being tough, she also had to deal with her drunken father every day whenever she came home from school. Her father would be always angry and put his anger towards his own family.

“I hated that almost every day I had to deal with my father being mean and just so abusive to us,” Schwarting said. “I just wanted to leave sometimes, to get away from him and his abusiveness.”

Lilian, believed enough was enough of their father’s actions towards them, so Lilian left for the United States in search of a job. She left her daughters with her relatives because she did not want the girls to struggle living in the country. A year later, Lilian finally found a job as a nurse when she first flew to Minnesota. While in Minnesota, she met a man, who she later married and moved to Nebraska together. After that, Lilian flew Schwarting and Naisy to the United States. Schwarting was afraid yet excited, and so was her sister when they left Kenya, their home.

“So many things flew in my mind, I was missing my relatives and my culture,” Schwarting said. “But at the same time, I was excited to go somewhere new and to leave my drunken father.”

When both of the girls arrived to Nebraska for the first time, Schwarting was surprised on how quickly she adapted to the way of life in new the country. Schwarting loved the different cultures and diverse communities the country has. She was joyful and believed that she was going to like living here, sadly, she would change her mind and wanted to move somewhere else.

It all started when she first attended school at Anderson Middle School near the end of 7th grade. Schwarting was a little nervous, but excited on what friends she will make and the classes she will have. She did not worry about understanding English since her school in Kenya taught the English language as a class. As the days went by, she noticed how the students would giggle and point at her whenever she spoke. She soon found out that the students were making fun of her accent. They also made fun of for clothing because it was not the “style” that most girls wore. Schwarting just felt like wanting to leave the school and Nebraska in general, she did not felt at home.

“I did not very much like my 7th grade year,” Schwarting said. “A lot of people would just make fun of me even though I did nothing to them so I did not like middle school that much.”

After the struggles she went through in 7th grade, she was not looking forward to 8th grade. In the beginning of the year, the bullying died down and was surprised. As the year went by Schwarting was seeing students in her classrooms began to talk to her. After she knows it, she was finally making friends. She was able to talk to people without being made fun of the way she spoke, ask for help and to actually have support from another besides family. This helped her throughout the first two years of high school fly by.

Schwarting now likes living in Nebraska and going to school without worrying of being the odd one out. From time to time, she misses her home town in where she grew up; including her childhood friends, culture, music and food. During the summer of 2017, her family visited Kenya as for vacation. She reunited with old relatives, her hometown where she lived and enjoyed talking and interacting with the native people that lived there. Schwarting felt at home at last again. One day, she would love to have a house in Kenya, for whenever she visited Kenya, and to have a home in the United States, too.