A New Life In A New Language

Languages (Image via Envato Elements)

Finding a new life in a new place can be difficult, rewarding and can bring lots of learning with it.

Whether looking for adventures or looking for a better life, people move across the world all the time, sometimes to a place where the language is the same and sometimes to a place where nothing is the same. 

Moves like these bring new challenges and the possibilities of new lives.

Courtesy of Courtney Butnor

Courtney Butnor, a U.S. native decided to take a leap and leave her life as a pre-med student to study Spanish. Her family, with deep roots in the south on her mother’s side and Lithuanian roots on her father’s side, instilled in her the importance of an education.

Butnor learned to speak Lithuanian with her grandparents as a child and took Spanish in high school which she says she did very well in. This also played a deciding factor on her choice for a degree in Spanish. This would take her to Spain, Mexico and eventually move her to the Galapagos Islands for 10 years.

“I thought I spoke Spanish,” Butnor explains about her first day in Ecuador, where she moved to work as an English teacher. She realized that even when she could understand most of the things being spoken to her, she couldn’t really express herself. She says getting to the island was when she felt the culture shock.

“Being an American there people have every stereotype, sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad,” according to Butnor. “You could never really know where you stand, and it was hard.”

Butnor says she learned to understand the struggle that undocumented people face in a small way. She knows what is like to have a visa fall through and have immigration knocking at your door.

I thought I spoke Spanish.

Courtney Butnor
Courtesy of Courtney Butnor


Moving from your birth country in search of a better life can come with a lot of culture shock.

Neisy Borges moved from Cuba to Costa Rica to the United States. She moved when she was only 24 years old.

“I moved because of the political situation in Cuba, I was looking to live in a place with freedom,” she says.

It was really hard to get used to life in Costa Rica, according to Borges. She had never left Cuba before, and she had to adjust to a new life.

For Borges, life in Costa Rica was like living in a new world: no government rules telling her what she could and could not do.

I moved because of the political situation in Cuba, I was looking to live in a place with freedom.

Neisy Borges
Courtesy of Neisy Borges

Borges moved to Colorado, U.S.A. after living in Costa Rica for a year. She says it took her about two years to be able to communicate in English once she moved to the United States. According to her, language was the hardest part about moving to this country. She explains that once she made the first move out of Cuba, the culture shock wasn’t so bad anywhere else.

“I was never able to know people from a different country because Cuba is so isolated,” Borges says.

Even when she spoke the same language, Borges says she didn’t know how to communicate with people from different countries.

“In Cuba, you don’t really know other people — you just know other Cubans,” she says.

Butnor and Borges have lived different experiences in their lives, moving around the world for different reasons. They help people in many different ways.

From organizing mobile pantries to helping people find a place to live when they first leave Cuba, these women have made their multicultural experiences unique and positive for themselves and the people around them.

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