Young woman smiles by wall covered in red lights.

Spanish with an Accent

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By Sarah Markstrom

Perla Escamilla is a Spanish Major at Oakland University (OU). She has gone through a lot in her life that has made her the person she is today. Growing up, people have always treated her differently, making it hard for her to fit in. She found it hard fitting in growing up because everyone had assumed that, because she was half Mexican, that [sic!] she could not speak English, having put her in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. Since she was young, she was put in that stereotype and it was hard for her to overcome. Teachers at her school even treated her differently for the way that she looked and how she spoke Spanish, not seeming to care about her education This made it even harder for her to care about her own education.

Here, she talks about how those certain events have affected her and how she overcame them.

Who are the most influential people in your life? How have they affected you?

The most influential person in my life would have to be my Tia Epifania (Aunt Epifania). When I was younger, my parents were going through a divorce, my mom was no longer living at home, and my aunt was the only person who took me under her wing. At the time, I was not doing well in school, on top of not hanging out with the correct people, and my aunt was really there for me and pointed me in the right direction.

How have your past experiences shaped you into the person you are today?

Before I moved in with my aunt, I really did not care about school, because I felt that I was so stupid and that I was not even going to go to college anyway. So at the time, I thought, what was the point? In high school, nobody really cared if I did well or not. I felt that I was an outsider and that I did not matter. Growing up, from grade school to high school, I was put in ESL classes, even though I could speak perfect English. It was also hard for me because I did not feel that I belonged. All of the Mexican people said I was too white and all of the white people said that I was too Mexican, that I didn’t even speak English even though I could. After moving in with my aunt, she really helped me realize that I was important and that my education did in fact matter. I also switched to an alternative school in my last few years of high school, and the teachers made me feel like they actually cared about me, cared about my education, and really made me motivated to want to try.

What/Who inspires you in your life?

My father came to the United States when he was just a teenager, only 19. He didn’t know any English, he didn’t come with any family, and he didn’t know anything. Seeing how now that he is an adult he knows English, he established his family here, and he owns two restaurants, and considering he once had nothing, it is really inspiring to me. It inspires me to achieve what I want to do in life.

Do you feel comfortable and/or safe in expressing your identity on campus?

I do feel that I fit in a little more at OU, it is so big it’s really hard not to feel lost. I definitely do not feel how I did in high school. In high school, my teachers would make fun of me because I did not know how to speak Spanish or I spoke Spanish weirdly, but at OU, all the professors have always made me feel comfortable.

There was this one time I was talking to one of my professors and I will never forget what he said to me. I had told him that I did not like to speak Spanish much because I did not want anyone to make fun of me for my accent. He had then told me that he speaks English with an accent and that speaking with an accent is something special and unique and it is something you should not be ashamed of. Most of the students in the Spanish department have also made me feel very comfortable and I feel that I can express who I
am.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say? What advice would you give to young women like yourself around the world?

I would tell my younger self not to care so much about what other people are thinking, because most of the time, they are not thinking about you. I spent most of my years when I was younger thinking about what others thought about me that it would end up consuming me. I’ve learned that it is best to be yourself, no matter what other people are thinking.

I would tell young women like myself that it is okay to be themselves and they do not have to be anyone else. That no matter what society tells them who they should be, they should only listen to who they think they should be. I think it also important to note that no matter what society tells you, what you should do and who you should be, it does not matter, because society isn’t always right.

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