Two countries, one friendship

How two immigrant freshmen found each other at a new school

BESTIES FOR THE RESTIES: Gilmond and Ramirez take a selfie together. The two girls connected after they found out they were both immigrants from South America

BESTIES FOR THE RESTIES: Gilmond and Ramirez take a selfie together. The two girls connected after they found out they were both immigrants from South America

Rachel Holt, Staff Writer

Two countries, two girls, two backgrounds, one friendship.  Freshmen Michelle Gilmond and Maria Ramirez, both immigrants from South America, make their journey to the United States and eventually to MN where they found each other and formed an unbreakable bond. Before their friendship blossomed, however, the girl’s stories started in a separate continent in neighboring countries.

Gilmond is originally from Venezuela and Ramirez  from Colombia. Both girls immigrated to the US around two years ago but each with a different reason for the move.

“Venezuela is actually going through a really rough time right now. It’s under dictatorship so things are really hard over there and it wasn’t safe for me or my sister or any of my family members,” Gilmond said, “We kind of decided that we had to move to another place in order to continue our lives in a safe way and feel secure.”

Ramirez on the other hand, moved to the United States when her mother met an American man and married him, taking her  and her dog to go live in the US with him. For Ramirez, the move was difficult for her.

“It was hard because I didn’t really speak English and I also felt like I was alone because I came just with my mom,” Ramirez said, “I came here to a new school and I didn’t know anyone and had to learn English and take all these classes so it was hard.”

Despite these hardships, the girls were able to overcome the obstacles of coming to a new country and learning a new language by reaching out for help.

“I think friends and teachers really help you to come to the United States, especially friends, because you can talk to them and practice,” Gilmond said, “I remember telling my friends from Wisconsin saying like, tell me if this is wrong please, I don’t want to sound stupid!”

Before the girl’s move, neither of them knew English, so moving to a new country where the primary language is not Spanish was a drastic change. Programs such as ELL, English-Language learners, helped teach someone like Ramirez English, in addition to her native language.

“In Central (middle school), there are people who speak Spanish a lot so I met them and they were helping me and they also had ELL.  My family is just my mom, American stepfather and American siblings, and so I had to learn how to speak English for them,” Ramirez said.

Apart from learning a new language, one of the struggles of moving to a new country is not knowing anyone and meeting an entirely different group of people.  For Gilmond and Ramirez, however, becoming friends was quite easy when they soon discovered their similarities.

“She was friends with someone that I know and I started talking to my friend and she heard me and she was like, ‘where are you from?’ And I was like, ‘Colombia’.  I heard her accent and she heard mine, and she was like ‘oh my God I’m from ‘Venezuela’ and we started jumping in the middle of the class,” Ramirez said.

For the girls, meeting someone that shares a similar culture and language with them in the midst of a new country in a new school made them beyond happy.

“We hang out every weekend and we have sleepovers and it’s really cool. We have a lot of fun together and I feel like together we are more fun and just better.” Gilmond said.

Spanish teacher Theresa Jensen has both girls in her seventh hour study hall and enjoys conversing freely with the girls in Spanish as they help her write passes, grade papers, or just have friendly conversation.

“Colombia and Venezuela have so much culture in common, yet they often dispute who is better or where favorite foods come from. Michelle and Maria are exactly like that! They are proud of their shared yet unique cultures but are the best of friends!” Jensen said.

The girls see each other every single day and don’t miss a single change to be in one another’s presence. The friendship to them is something unbreakable and valuable beyond measure.

“I never thought we were going to get this close like ever, we are so close now, and it’s just amazing,” Gilmond said.