Johanna Balvoa: My Story


My family and I moved here from Ecuador in 2019. Getting to know the language wasn’t easy. 


When I got to America I went to Blaine High School, where I started my education in the United States. I didn’t know any English, so I couldn’t understand the teachers, which made it really hard to learn. I was very shy and, even though there were many Spanish speaking students, I didn’t feel as if I could ask questions or like they wanted to help me. 


After one year, my family moved to Ham Lake and I began High School at SFHS. Here, I got placed in ESL with Ms.Olson and that helped me a lot. Also what has helped me improve is hearing my classmates speak and slowly adapting the language as I go. In the ESL class, we are a small group and we get to meet every day and work on English with a teacher who understands how to teach people who speak another language. I have a very good friend now in that class who makes me happy and we can speak both Spanish and English together.


When we moved to the U.S., there was a lot to learn. There are many differences from Ecuador to  the states, but also  a lot of simarities. One difference –  the food that I ate in Ecuador compared to what my family eats now. We grow our own food in Ecuador. My mother had a garden where we grew vegetables instead of having to go to the store. We also raised our own chickens for fresh eggs. Well, we still eat the same thing here, but the taste is different and sometimes our stomach hurts because we are not used to it.


People in Minnesota might not understand how different the climate is compared to Ecuador. There is no snow in Ecuador, and well, we are not used to very low temperatures. Although I am very happy to know how the snow feels and it is very fun to play with my brothers and hit them with snowballs.


Over the past two years, with Covid, it has been even harder because people wear masks and I can’t look at their mouths when they speak. It is easier to understand how to pronounce words and sounds when I can see complete faces.  


I dream about one day writing a book about my life. Sometimes it is frustrating to not be able to use the words I want, but I know I have learned many new things and will keep working hard. This makes me want to help other students like me who might be new to this country and may struggle with learning a new language. I remember how I felt as a shy newcomer to America. Now I can help other students that don’t know English.