Like any student on a college campus, everyone’s experience is different here at Keene State College. For students who use English as their second language, their experience may vary from others even more.
Senior Tina Pinzon is originally from Columbia, but moved to the United States in middle school. Pinzon just recently gained full U.S. citizenship due to the five-year waiting period after receiving a green card. She said after she studied abroad to Spain, which delayed the process, she came back and was ready to start applying. Pinzon said the application process involved various paperwork, tests and interviews.
She said her family came to the U.S to seek asylum, but she misses all of the family she had to leave behind. Now that she has full citizenship, she said she plans on going back to Columbia for Christmas.
“[Columbia] is still a part of me,” Pinzon said.
She said when she first came to the U.S., it was a huge culture shock for her family. She said one of the hardest parts was learning English along with her sister. They would take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for five periods a day during school along with tutoring.
Pinzon said the biggest differences between the U.S. and Columbia are cultural aspects such as food, holidays and school systems.
Pinzon said her parents also learned to speak English, but at home they speak Spanish. However, she and her sister will speak English to each other.
When coming to Keene State, Pinzon said the change was not that drastic since she went to high school in Connecticut. Pinzon said she was aware she was coming to a school that was predominately white, which was the same as her high school. However, she said it was easy to make friends and enjoy her college experience.
Sophomore Jomy Gonzalez is originally from Puerto Rico and moved to the United States in fifth grade.
Her family moved here to get away from dangerous events happening in Puerto Rico.
Gonzalez said she knew some English before moving to the U.S. from children’s television shows, so it was not too hard to pick up, however she said grammar and English slang was the hardest to learn. Gonzalez said they speak mostly English at home, however when family comes over, only Spanish is spoken.
She said when she first started school in the U.S. only a couple students would comment on her ethnicity, but other than that, the adjustment was not too difficult.
Both students agreed moving to the United States so early in their lives made the transition and learning English easier.
Dr. Patricia Pedroza Gonzalez has been teaching Women and Gender Studies at KSC for 18 years. She moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Mexico, lived there for about one year and then moved to New Hampshire in 2000.
Dr. Pedroza Gonzalez said she originally learned how to speak English in middle school because it was a requirement to learn a language. She said students were told about American language and culture very early on. However, she never really took it seriously until she was in college completing her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry-Pharmacology for technical reasons. She said she wanted to be proficient in English so she could communicate with her new international friends and colleagues who she loves to spend time with. She said she finally accepted the reality that English is an international language and needed to develop that commitment.
As for KSC, Dr. Pedroza Gonzalez said there should be more academic help given to students who use English as their second language. She said the process of writing is difficult for everyone and faculty should be able to help edit papers because they are in English.
“When students use English as their second language, some faculty are already expecting a bad paper,” Dr. Pedroza Gonzalez said. “Sometimes the entire class can equally hand in a bad paper but it doesn’t matter, some faculty will assume it is because English is their second language.”
Dr. Pedroza Gonzalez said there has even been Latino comedians who came to KSC to perform, but that there has not been a Latino guest speaker to talk about important topics because there is ‘no room in the budget.’
She said the College can create as many multicultural events as they want, but this will not change how students learn. Dr. Pedroza Gonzalez said resources such as the Writing Center, study nights, or event faculty should help Hispanic students more. She said if there were an English student willing to sit down with a student and go over their work to fix grammar issues and spelling, it would make those students feel more successful and help them in the future.
Haleigh Patch can be contacted at