'I never said it's going to be easy. But, I'm going to learn'

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In advent of graduation this spring, Pittsfield High School student Anya Valdospinos sits down to talk with her English language teacher, Louise Celebi, about how far they’ve both come in class.

Below are lightly edited excerpts from their interview with one another. For the full interview, visit berkshireeagle.com.

Louise Celebi: You’ve been back to Ecuador recently do your family and friends in Ecuador notice the change that you’re talking about?

Anya Valdospinos: Yes, especially my friends, they laugh with me, yes. They see I’m not fighting anymore with some people. My family knows that I’ve had very [difficult] relationship with my mom, and, because [they know] who I am, maybe they think it was very difficult — it was really difficult — but they’re really happy for me because they know how it’s now a good relationship. When I went [back] to Ecuador … a lot of things changed. I feel so different. It’s like, it’s my country, I know that, but I don’t feel like the same as [I] was living in there.

Celebi: [Deep breath. Sigh.] I understand that so much because my husband and I often talk about that. We started our life in Turkey together, and when we go back to Turkey, it’s as if we don’t fully belong there. And when we’re here, it’s as if we don’t fully belong here. So you’re like in this in-between land …

Valdospinos: Yeah …

Celebi: We have a phrase that we say. It’s called “no man’s land.” So I feel you in your heart. So you go back as you’ve changed and you don’t fit quite like you fit before, and, um, I feel that here even. (Celebi is originally from Texas.)

Valdospinos: [Nodding] Yeah … It’s like, I see my friends now in college, in their university, but it’s not the same. They’re thinking about other things. I’m thinking about another thing; I have other goals, and they have other goals. People change.

Celebi: I know you just got your acceptances to college and you’re proud, and your mom and family — I’m very happy for you. I’m wondering, what do you think it’s going to feel like to be on your own?

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Valdospinos: Oh my gosh. [Both laugh.] When I was in Ecuador my great-grandfather gave me everything, like, what I want. I think being on my own is going to be good. It’s going to be work. Now I am with my mom — it’s not the same — she’s working. Obviously I’m going to college, I’m going to know more people. I’m going to know how it is living on my own. … I going to learn how I can take care of myself for my own. It’s going to be difficult. I never said it’s going to be easy. But I’m going to learn. …

Celebi: You talked about changing the world. In what field? In what way? In what part of the world?

Valdospinos: I don’t know what is going to be next after my graduation from college. I don’t know if I’m going to be here or if I’m going to travel — I love travel, you know that. … But my experience in my country, for medicine, in my country there is nothing. I have the opportunity here to learn medicine. I love medicine and I always love to help people, not just in medicine but other people’s needs. If one friend is sad, I’m going to be there for that friend. I know that if I’m going to be a doctor, I can go to another place and make the difference. Maybe it’s not changing the world, but I can go and change the world of that person.

Valdospinos: What do you think about the students who are graduating this year? What have you learned from them?

Celebi: … I think I’m going to really miss that group. It’s a big group. It’s a dynamic group — a lot of high-achieving students, a lot of kids who have goals for the future and are working really hard to realize those goals.

I’m always amazed, and I try to let you guys know how much I’m amazed by what you do. You know how we read that whole article about bilinguals being smarter than monolinguals — but just to remind you, it’s as if you have two brains, and two hearts, so it’s like you have super powers going out into the world. And I’m really happy that the response that you’re getting from your applications are starting to validate to you [and] all the hard work that you do. ...

I think you guys, as a whole, are a focused group and I think that is really going to support your success, like you said, in whatever you’re going to do. You’re going to go to college and you don’t know where that road is going to lead, but you’re starting the journey. You’re initiating that journey yourself.

No one said you had to apply for college. No one said you had to work for 10 days on an essay. No one said you had to lose sleep and get stressed and make yourself sick to make that happen. You chose it and you did it. You guys have a lot to be proud of. A lot.

Valdospinos: You’re a really good teacher, Ms. Celebi. … You don’t just teach the work, you teach more than that, to help [us] be a human. That’s why the students care about you.

Celebi: Thank you so much.


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