Central Meets World

Students at Naperville Central come from various cultural backgrounds and have different stories to tell. The Central Times gets to know several students born abroad, their connections to their home countries and how they made a place for themselves in Naperville.

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Central Meets World

Art by Yoo Young Chun

Art by Yoo Young Chun

Art by Yoo Young Chun

Art by Yoo Young Chun

Noelle Schwarz and Maddy Engels, News Editor and Staff Writer

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 When senior Justas Stankevicius was just 10 years old, he and his sister boarded a plane by themselves from Lithuania to America. Their mother, who had moved to the U.S. two months earlier, awaited them at the airport. The ride was as daunting as it was exciting.

Just three years prior, a recession hit Lithuania hard. Hoping to find better jobs, Stankevicius’ parents applied for a green card.

“The way you can apply to even immigrate to the U.S. is basically a lottery,” Stankevicius said. “So we ended up winning it. One day a letter came from somewhere in Kentucky saying, ‘You’ve been approved for going through this process.’ So then the week after that we ended up going to the capital of Lithuania to go to the embassy where we would get our passports stamped and we’d actually begin going through the process.”

His father, however, stayed behind.

“My father came to the U.S. four years later,” Stankevicius said. “That’s how long it took for him to get a visa approved.”

Stankevicius is just one of many kids who immigrated to the U.S. from another country. Sophomore Danny Yang moved here from Melbourne, Australia, in the summer of 2016. The Yang family moved to have the opportunity to start a new life with the added incentive of family in America.

“It was kind of tricky,” Yang said. “You had to learn a lot of the American customs and traditions and all that.”

Even though it was difficult to adjust, Yang was able to with the help of others.

“When I first joined school I had friends to help constantly and my parents always supported me,” Yang said.

For Stankevicius, one of the hardest parts was learning English.

“I went to a Russian kindergarten,” Stankevicius said. “Technically, I was taking an English class, but in terms of conversational skills we didn’t learn much. So I say that I learned English in America, because when I came to the U.S. and actually had to talk to my teachers or people that I’d met, most of it was just broken English.”

The climate was a big transition for sophomore Lauren Diver, who was originally born in Australia then moved to England for seven years before coming to America.

“England rains a lot,” Diver said. “Australia is just all heat and [America] is a mixture. It’s very nice to have snow again and some heat in the summer.”

Diver has gone to eight different schools between the three countries, each one different than the last.

“The curriculum is different,” Diver said. “[In America] the grading systems are different like to get an A It’s like a 90 percent or higher, and in my other schools it’s been like 80 percent or higher. I feel like the school system is a little easier [in America]. The way you can do online school throughout the summer, that wasn’t an option [at my other schools].”

Senior Sebastian Perez came to the U.S. from Dubai in part for the school system in last fall.

“The education is really good [in Dubai], but the majority of people don’t stay there,” Perez said. “Most of them want to go to either Europe or the U.S. I don’t know a lot of people who stay there to study.”

Perez has also found many commonalities between the U.S. and Dubai.

“There’s a big misconception about like the Middle East and how it’s very restrictive,” Perez said. “There is some of that, but I think that Dubai is a more developed and more progressive country. It’s a lot like Chicago, a big city.”

However, there were some differences that Perez noted.

“There are some laws, like you’re not allowed to drive or learn to drive until you’re 18. Most of my friends are still back there. They don’t have their license. You’re also not allowed to get your citizenship there unless you were born there or married to somebody who was born there,” Perez said.

Stankevicius agrees that life was not too different from Klaipeda, Lituania to Naperville, Ill.

“I feel like I would have had a similar childhood if I was born here,” Stankevicius said. “There were close interactions with neighbors, and I’d hang out with my friends after school. Maybe Americans are a little bit friendlier than your urban Lithuanians [because] I grew up in the city.”

Yang agrees with the differences in education in his old home versus America.

“Now that I’m in high school here, I guess it’s trickier, more difficult over here. I have to actually study whereas here in Australia I took everything pretty easily,” Yang said.

After four years in America, Stankevicius went back to visit his family in Lithuania.

“When I came back my dad was encouraging me to reach out to my old friends and to invite them to hang out,” Stankevicius said. “What I thought was kind of sad was the fact that to my friends I had become a ghost, a legend, at the end of fourth grade. [I had] disappeared into this strange land called America and then never really bothered to contact them again.”

Diver hopes to return to England in the future after doing her CCD courses here for EMT training.

“I want to experience the American side of paramedic and firefighting, but I also want to experience the British side of it because I’ve grown up there and I’ve seen what it’s like,” Diver said. “So I also want to move back, maybe after college.”

Both Stankevicius and Perez plan to stay in America for college as well.

After experiencing his own struggles integrating into America, Stankevicius learned some important lessons of his own.

“Don’t push [American culture] away because that’s going to make it harder for you to fit in,” Stankevicius said. “It’s going to make it harder for people to approach you. If you present yourself as an outsider you’ll always be an outsider.”


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