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International Adoption: My First Few Days in America

Swings covered in snow

In this compelling international adoption story, an adoptee shares what it’s like to arrive in America after living in an orphanage in Ukraine.

Our new home was beautiful, it wasn’t like anything we have ever lived in. We were shown our new rooms, and I was amazed. I had my own bed, my own big closet for the few clothes that I had, and a clean bathroom I didn’t have to share with a whole floor of kids. I still remember the American Girl doll my grandparents bought for me and was on my bed as I walked in. Our new adoptive family already loved us before we got off the plane and that was definitely something new to us. We explored the house and continued to use hand gestures with our new family. It was crazy to see a fridge full of food that was ours to eat. We didn’t have to wait for meals to be prepared three times a day like back in the orphanage. My family also had a small poodle. Which made me happy because I have always been a big animal lover. I used to sneak little kitties and puppies in the orphanage because I felt so bad for them being out on the streets. There are no animal shelters or a place you can call if you find animals roaming the streets there.

The first few months of living in Minnesota were hectic. My brother and I spent half of the time in our rooms talking back and fourth in Russian. We had to try so many different foods and refused to eat anything but Ramen noodles because that was the only thing familiar to us. I still laugh about this today but the first time I tried a salad, I spit it out. It was such a bad taste to me and I refused to eat it. I had never eaten a salad with dressing before, so it was not a good experience. Today, I could eat salads for every meal of the day. My brother and I have definitely come long way from those first days in America.

Aside from all the new foods, I had to adjust to a new style of clothing, new music, movies, and books. Of course, the most difficult part about living in America was the language. Hand gestures are the biggest thing when you adopt from another country! My family and I also used books and translators to help us around the house in our everyday living. My brother and I also took ESL at the public school we went to. I loved going to a public school right away because everyone was super nice and welcoming. My fifth grade teacher labeled everything in the classroom in English for me. So I walked around reading them during class.

As an adoptee through international adoption, my first days in America were scary, stressful, confusing, exciting, and overwhelming all at the same time. So many changes went on in my life that I wasn’t used to, but it all worked out in the end. I still cannot believe that it has been over ten years since I came here. I feel as though I have lived here all my life.

By Yelena K.