From Learning English in Brazil to Fulfilling a Dream in the United States

My Immigration Story: Helen Salgado Santos


I was 6 years old when I was watching movies with subtitles and listening they speaking English when I knew I needed to learn how to speak English, it sounded so beautiful…

Back in Brazil since 5th grade, you learn English but its super basic. It was not enough. I finished my high school with A+ in English, after high school I start a English course full time, watching friends, movies and CNN, intensive grammar. I finally was seeing myself talking in English, got my Proficiency in English TOEFL, when the opportunity to come to America came. It was a great opportunity to leave with an American family and babysit while going to school. At first it was challenging I found out at the airport how fast people speak, after a while I got used to it and learn every day a new word a new slang. I had a wonderful experience when I met my husband, got married.

It was not easy. We started our married life renting a basement. I started working as a dental assistant, my husband did construction. Almost moving 6 times. Our son was born in VA. When he was 6 months old we came to New Hampshire where my husband family live. We moved to Merrimack where we shared a 2-bedroom apartment with my mother in law. I was home with my son. I used to bring Reuben to the pool all the time. One day one of my neighbors asked why I didn’t try going to the Y for Reuben to take swimming classes. I did come to the Y. Such a nice place, big and cool. I thought when I asked for classes, they gave me a price, we couldn’t afford it at that time. Things were getting better I got a job. Reuben was going to a sitter. I was not as happy how things were going. Then I heard about the Merrimack Daycare at the Y.

We came in, I found out about the Y Cares, Reuben start going to school taking swimming classes, and since then the Y have been a second home for us. We moved to Nashua, a second baby came, Ethan. He came to the Y as well, at his pre k we found with his great teacher he was a little delayed by then we were back in Merrimack. Ethan received help with his Y teacher and IEP at Thorntons Ferry, it was a challenging year.

Isabel was born, start at the Y since 3 months old, never had a day I had a non good experience at this place, we feel home. Nowadays I see lots and lots of Brazilian, Hispanic people, recommended this place to lots of my friends. I will tell you, immigrate can be challenge but for me was fulfilling a dream. Today I speak English and Portuguese with my family I see Portuguese notes and all at the YMCA, I feel they want to make us all feel welcomed and cozy. I feel it’s amazing how much you can learn and adapt when you are willing to change your Life

My advice for people coming to this country is learn English, immerse yourself with locals, try new things, open you mind, live as you are from here, learn the language, make friends, hang out, experience all new things and it  all will help you adapt….Work hard, the American dream is possible with lots of work and determination!

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