In Their Own Words – JACKELINE

April 15th, 2021|

LUCA is proud to launch its #InTheirOwnWords series! Over the next few weeks, we will share personal statement essays written by the Latino U Scholars Class of 2021 so that our Scholars can introduce themselves – and share their experiences during these unprecedented times – in their own words. All essays are shared with the permission of each Scholar. For our final installment, the essay below was written by Jackeline, a Latino U Scholar from Sleepy Hollow High School.


Choosing to study Italian was the best mistake I ever made. Knowing more than one language has opened doors to understanding other cultures, traditions, and values. Spanish has helped me to embrace my Mexican culture and heritage; English has given me a voice to express myself; and Italian has inspired me to explore the world.

My first experience as a translator for my parents taught me the value of being bilingual. In elementary school, however, I was often frustrated with always having to help my parents with translations at the grocery store and the doctor’s office. I was too young to understand that my mother was confused by the use of idiomatic expressions. When my mom listened to music, she would memorize song lyrics, but would say, “Ni se que dice la canción,” or “I don’t even know what the song is saying.” She was not ashamed of her language barrier, taking English classes at Westchester Community College. I admired her decision to go to school in the evening after work. While my mom no longer needs my help to translate the everyday world, my dad still depends on me to translate voicemails and complicated forms. Speaking two languages fluently has had many benefits, including communicating with my relatives in Mexico, who are eager to learn English and consider me a good teacher.

Already aware of the advantages of being bilingual, in fifth grade, I made a decision to learn something new. When selecting a language to study, my friend and I decided to select Spanish as our first choice and Italian as our second choice. However, I chose Italian as my first choice, unconsciously. Although part of me wanted to be with my friend to study Spanish, another part of me wanted to learn a new language. I have studied Italian since, and the similarities with Spanish work to my advantage. Actually, speaking Spanish has made it easier for me to learn another language. Most Italian words are easy to understand because they look and sound like Spanish: words like “to love,” amare and amar or “books,” libri and libros.

In April 2019, I traveled to Italy on a school trip and used my new language skills to learn about a different culture and to explore the geography of another continent. In class, I had read about the cultural importance of Italian food, but I was surprised to discover the different types of piatti – “dishes”- and the order in which they were served. When my class visited restaurants, I was able to read the menu. We were served five delicious piatti of food for an ordinary lunch, so unlike the lunch we normally eat at home. I visited cities and regions I had read about in books, like Siena, Bologna, San Gimignano, and Dozza. I explored the city of Florence, visiting the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, walking on the Ponte Vecchio, and eating my first of many gelatos. However, the most memorable event was visiting the Galleria dell’ Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David, sculpted from one block of marble from the quarries in Carrara.

I was amazed by the beauty of the people and by the connection I felt to the country because I could speak Italian and appreciate its culture. Traveling to Italy has inspired me to travel the world, and knowing that I have command of three languages will allow me to be a true citizen of the world.