Discovering Myself

By Evan Iglesias Ilobet

I was born and raised in the picturesque city of Toulouse, France. My childhood consisted of playing games in the streets, climbing trees, and visiting the local boulangerie. It was not until later that I realized that I wasn’t even French! I was a Spanish and Canadian citizen since my father is from Quebec, and my mother from Catalonia. At the age of eight, I moved to Spain where I got to meet my entire extended family, and the identity I thought I was a part of quickly changed. I went from being a fearless, happy French boy who loved nothing more than to play with his friends, to being acquainted with what felt like thousands of cousins who I had never heard about. French being my first language made it hard for me to fit in, but since I was surrounded by family, I soon made it feel like home again. Within only a year's time, I had learned to speak fluent spanish. Although I now felt comfortable within my newly established community, that was soon to change. At the age of ten, I moved to the United States of America. I. Was. Terrified. Not only did I not understand anybody, the change in culture and environment was the biggest shock. I remember my first day of 5th grade; I got called on by the teacher which led me to run out of the class sobbing since I had no idea what anyone was talking about. The school called my parents, and I was able to go home that day. Other issues started to arise. I thought to myself, “Will I see my friends again? What food do they have here? How am I going to have to learn another language?!” It took me two full years to be able to pronounce the “th” sound; for example, the word “the” was impossible for me to say. However, in only a couple of years, my English had become exquisite. My experience, though, as an international student, was not the most enjoyable experience. Coming from Europe, immigrating to the United States was one of the toughest challenges I faced. At first, it felt as if I had been welcomed with open arms, but as time went on, I started to get picked on. My background, beliefs, and ideals differed greatly from those around me, and let’s just say that those people weren’t afraid to let me know. Having grown up as an atheist, moving to Wichita, Kansas, a Christian-dominated population, was especially confusing for me. My school required us to attend church every week, and one day I asked the person beside me, “Why do we do this every week?” He looked back at me with perplexion and shock. Not long after this incident, my entire class was aware that I wasn’t a Christian. I was an anomaly to them. My difficulty to comprehend/speak English, not liking the cafeteria food, and not understanding the games at recess were all more reasons for why I felt abnormal or misplaced. I got called names like, “Baguette,” “Immigrant,” “Illegal,” “Lucifer,” and some other ones I’d rather not mention. My father’s job, an AirBus aerospace engineer, required us to move around a lot. In the United States, I ended up living in Kansas, Utah, Alabama, Florida, Alabama again, and now reside in Illinois for university. We moved in approximately two to three year increments, and the list of places is in chronological order. As of today, I’ve been enrolled in over ten schools and have had to leave countless friends behind. However, each time I moved, the easier it got. After leaving my truest home, France, my identity was all over the place. With time, after each move, I learned more and more about myself. I’d start to ignore the negative of being almost “nomadic” and start to appreciate all of what I had and was experiencing. Now, as an adult, I am extremely grateful for all of the places I’ve traveled to, all the people I’ve met, and all the languages I’ve been able to learn. Although I am not legally a French citizen, my identity comes from the early years of my life when I was living in France. Some of my friends now tell me how “Americanized” I’ve become, but deep down, I know that how I truly feel makes me who I am.

Today, my sense of identity couldn't be more distinct. It feels like people always like to tell me “who I am,” based on their perception of me, but only I am aware of that. My identity begins with my childhood; having been raised in France, I still remember the warm and sunny days where me and Petit Paul (my best friend at the time) would play soccer, play a common game with marbles on the drain covers, stuff our faces with “chocolatines,” and essentially, enjoy being a kid as if our lives depended on it. My best memories come from my upbringing, and to this day, much of my “favorite things,” like food, culture, and experiences come from this time in my life. As for my Spanish family, I can say that they have also had a major impact on my identity. I can easily say that the rest of my “favorite things,” like listed above, come from my time in Spain. In conclusion, my identity is rooted in both French and Spanish heritage, shaping who I am today.

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