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The Student News Website of Francis Howell North High School.
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Junior Havana York Finds Belonging in Moving to a New Country and Making New Friends

Junior+Havana+York+shows+off+her+Jamaican+jacket+that+features+the+bold+colors+of+the+Jamaican+flag.+
Credit to Hannah Martin
Junior Havana York shows off her Jamaican jacket that features the bold colors of the Jamaican flag.

Moving is never easy, but there was an added layer of difficulty for junior Havana York who lived in Jamaica for 13 years before moving to the United States in 2021. York was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, with her mother and two half-sisters before relocating to the U.S. after her mother married an American man.

“So, at first I didn’t like hearing [that I would move] because it was very different from what I was used to,” York said. “But after a while, I got used to it and I like it more now.”

There are many cultural changes one has to make when they move, and for some it can take years to adjust to. It’s typical for people who have to move to other countries to feel very lost or disconnected. Language barriers add even more of a challenge. Although countries like Jamaica teach English in their schools, most Jamaicans don’t typically speak English regularly. As a result, York developed a heavy accent when she began to speak English and felt insecure.

“One of the biggest challenges I faced was talking to new people and meeting new people,” York said. “I was very introverted
in freshman year, and I didn’t feel like I belonged here. I did not talk to a lot of people. My accent was very thick, so I found it embarrassing.”

Despite the language barriers over the years, York made friends at school and in her neighborhood and became more comfortable in an entirely alien environment.

“I have made a lot of friends here,” York said. “People here are nicer than people in Jamaica.”

Winnie Vergara, a junior at North, also made a move from one country, the Philippines, to the U.S. a few years ago. Vergara became close friends with York, and together they shared the experience and stress of moving and learning to adjust.

“I arrived here in the U.S. in the seventh grade, so when I first got here, I didn’t really know how to communicate because I didn’t know how [Americans] thought,” Vergara said. “So, it took a few years to learn how to communicate and know what they’ll be thinking about me.”

Another significant challenge when moving countries is switching schools. Education in any country is very different, from
school types to grade levels to education. For instance, York found the mixed-grade classrooms in the school very confusing.

“The fact that sophomores, seniors and freshmen could be all in the same class at once was very strange to me,” York said. “In Jamaica, they would be all separate. So, if you were in 10th grade, you would not be in a class with any other grade.”

Moving added much anxiety, but York developed some ways to eliminate the stress she felt after moving. She developed a crocheting hobby because materials were easier to obtain in the United States than in Jamaica.

“I tried crocheting for the first time because it was so easy to get the materials compared to in Jamaica,” York said. “I’m not very good, but at least I tried.”

York and her family had to leave a ton of familiar faces and places and carry the weight of those she left behind. However, she and her family still keep in contact with most of her family and friends.

“I do visit Jamaica often, maybe every two months,” York’s mother Alicia David said. “[My] extended family lives in Jamaica and we converse through video calls.”

Bridging the distance between them through calls helps keep the family ties close for York’s family, as it helps keep her family connected despite being separated by thousands of miles. Adapting to a new country was challenging for York, but she has gradually found that she feels like she belongs since making new friendships.

“I think it’s okay to feel nervous, but once you get comfortable and find people that you fit in with and feel comfortable with, you’ll be fine. It’s just like the beginning stage, but you will get over it,” York said.

Items From Home

York shares items from Jamaica

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