upper waypoint

CATESOL 2013 Essay Contest - Winning Essay

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

The CATESOL 2013 conference, Riding the Waves to Success, hosted the adult level essay contest sponsored by Cambridge University Press. Sandra Fernandez, a student in Mai Ackerman’s Essential English Transitions class at Simi Valley Adult School, won the prize of $100.00 dollars worth of Cambridge books and materials with her essay describing how she had ridden the waves that took her from Colombia to her life in the U.S.

Adult ESL teachers at the CATESOL conference had the opportunity to listen to Ms. Fernandez read her essay. As Sandra pointed out, it can be daunting for a non-native speaker to address a ballroom full of English teachers. Undaunted, however, she read with exquisite poise and expression, finishing to a well-deserved standing ovation.

Introduction by Jayme Adelson-Goldstein of Lighthearted Learning

Riding The Waves Of Success

by Sandra Fernandez,


Life can be like the waters in the ocean, they can be calm and relaxing, but they can also be turbulent and frightening. My life has had both of these experiences. Those experiences have helped me to grow as a person, as a mom and as a professional.

My life in Colombia was calm, it was totally different from the life that I live in the U.S. I was a young motivated individual who focused mainly on my professional career. I was able to fully dedicate my life to my career in business administration. My passion for my profession and my job in financial analysis and auditing drove me to leave my personal life aside. I made time for my immediate family, but I didn’t have anyone special in my life. When I was in Colombia, I still lived with my parents and they helped me with many of my responsibilities. We were also very fortunate to have a person come and help us with house chores.

When I least expected it, I met a wonderful man who swept me off my feet, because he showed me how to see life in a different way. Although we met in Colombia, he was already living in the U.S. When my husband proposed to me, I was faced with a difficult decision – to stay in Colombia with my job and my relatives, or leave my family and my profession behind and come to the U.S. to start a new life. When I arrived in the U.S., I was very excited, but soon I also had many challenges. I had to learn a new culture, a new language, and be exposed to different kinds of foods and meet new people. This new setting was a huge contrast to my prior life; initially I only had the company and help of my husband. I was missing the support system of my parents and my whole family..

With time, I was able to deal with some of these challenges; however, new ones would soon appear. For example, motherhood was a beautiful time for me. A new experience in my life, and it contributed to me learning more about how to be a mom. I had to look for parenting classes that helped me with my children’s development at the Simi Valley Adult School. There I discovered many opportunities to pursue my goals.

In order to improve my English and to communicate with other people I decided to enroll in ESL classes at the adult school. These classes have helped me to participate in day to day activities. No longer do I feel frightened, now that I feel more comfortable with the language, I am exploring the possibility of continuing with my professional career, and looking for a part time job in the financial area or to further enhance my skills with other courses that are available at the adult school. I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to participate in many of the programs in SVAS.

After 9 years of living in U.S., I really enjoy my life, my kids and I love to live here. I have been very thankful to this country for all the things that it has given me and to my family . The most important achievement I have fulfilled was getting my American citizenship three years ago. It showed me how important and significant this country has been to me. Having said this, my heart is now split in half between my two lovely countries: Colombia and the USA. Ultimately, the most important thing in my life is to continue to ride the waves my life ocean has in store for me. I personally want to continue to grow as a person, as a mom and as a professional, this latter one is the wave I now want to catch.



lower waypoint
next waypoint