In the past 7 months that I have been an Intern Compañera I have grown not only personally but also professionally. I am fluent in both English and Spanish but have never really thought about how lucky I am to be fluent in both. I never realized just how fortunate I am to be fluent in both languages and how even more fortunate I am to be able to interpret and help others understand what is being said until this experience. While being at Taller de José, I have been able to accompany clients to doctor’s appointments and USCIS Oath Ceremonies. In the accompaniments I have been on since I starting at Taller de José, I have seen how we are making an impact one client at a time.
Clients that come to us may feel like they are alone most of the time because of the situation they are in or dealing with. A client I always want to remember is someone who I accompanied to her oath ceremony, we’re going to call her Josefina. Josefina is a widowed 67-year-old woman who recently applied for citizenship. When Josefina decided to apply for her citizenship, she was afraid because like many others she did not know the English language fully. When I met her for the first time, she kept mentioning how nervous she was even though she had already completed the most important part which was the interview with the immigration officer. Let me just mention, she completed this interview by herself and did it in English!
Josefina came to us seeking emotional support and interpretation. I was lucky enough to accompany her and get to know a little about her life. Like her siblings, Josefina works full time and takes care of her elderly mother who is unable to walk. On our journey to her interview she kept stating how nervous she was because she did not know what expect from the process and she was worried she would not understand. We were able to talk about why she decided to apply, how she got an appointment shortly after, and how glad she was to have found us.
Once we walked into the room, we sat next to each other so that I could interpret everything that was being said. She looked at me for reassurance when she wasn’t sure what was said. When the judge came in, she looked even more nervous and her eyes began to tear a little. It was just a lot of emotions for her to take in all at once. I tried to calm her nerves by telling her how happy I was for her and how impressed I was that she went to the interview by herself. She blushed a little because no one had ever told her how proud of her they were. The judge initiated the ceremony and she seemed to forget all about her nerves. She was smiling from ear to ear and was excited to listen to everything he had to say.
After the ceremony when everyone was welcomed to the United States and given their certificates, she hugged me. She said she felt safe knowing that she was not alone after all. I told her she did an incredible thing and that it was just more opportunities to present themselves after that day. She looked excited and really could not stop smiling. We waited to take a picture by the flag in the big federal building and she could still not stop smiling. As we exited, she continued to thank me and asked to come back into the office to start her passport process so she can start traveling. Before parting ways at the CTA, she hugged me once again tighter and thanked me for all the support that I was able to give her in such little time.
As I think back this was just one of the many accompaniments that have created an impact on my life. I learned to be thankful for all the opportunities I have been given to assist others.
Written by Alejandra Padilla (she/her/ella)
Alejandra served at Taller de José as an Intern Compañerx while she obtained her BSW from Northeastern Illinois University, she is now Taller de José’s Staff Compañerx.