Challenge (n): a stimulating task or problem

Challenge. Although the word has an accepted dictionary definition, it means something different to each and every one of us as challenges are unique—in that the entirety or aspects of someone’s challenge will likely not happen to another person.

Some of us may face challenges early on in our lives, and for others, it may be later; some may take years to overcome, and some are just about taking the next step. Regardless of the what, where, when, why and how of your challenge, at the end of it all, it is still something you overcame—and are likely better and more knowledgeable for!

For me, the biggest challenge I’ve overcome—and am still “working on,” if you will—is my move from my hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to the United States when I was 13. My dad took a “temporary” work assignment in Michigan, which turned into a permanent job three years later. So, you can probably imagine that move came with a few challenges: language and communication barriers, mannerisms and culture, the distance from everyone I knew, schooling and making friends…

Overwhelming at first? Absolutely. Did I enjoy every step of the way? I’d like to say I enjoyed most steps. No one goes through challenges without frustrations. But can I say I overcame them and love my new home? Definitely.

After almost 10 years in the U.S., I faced my most recent—but definitely not final—challenge of the move…after an extensive application, biometrics, an interview, an oath ceremony and a lot of waiting (all in all a LONG process), I can finally say I am an American citizen!

While I was very fortunate to have my immediate family with me for the move, this journey provided us all varying experiences—and challenges—and taught us different life lessons. In having to adapt and immerse myself in a new culture, I’ll leave you with some tips that helped me overcome my challenges:

  • Give it time. It won’t happen overnight, and it will require thought and dedication.
  • Divide the bigger picture into smaller steps. This will help you accomplish smaller goals that eventually add up to help overcome your “bigger” challenge.
  • Celebrate the small victories. It will give you the energy to keep tackling the next ones.
  • Ask for help. I definitely didn’t know all I need to on my first day of high school when moving here—and maybe I got lost in the building—but I did eventually make it to class, with the few sentences of English I could speak.
  • Learn from people who have been in your shoes, but don’t depend on them to achieve your goals. Of course, you should ask for help when you need it, but you should also gather insight from those around you because you’ll eventually have to take action on your own.

Now here’s a challenge for you: Would you pass the test portion to become an American citizen? Answer six out of the 10 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services questions below correct, and CONGRATS, you passed the civics test portion of the interview!

  1. What is freedom of religion?
  2. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
  3. Why did the colonists fight the British?
  4. Who is the “Father of Our Country”?
  5. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
  6. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
  7. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
  8. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
  9. Who did the United States fight in World War II?
  10. What did Susan B. Anthony do?

(Answer key: 1. You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion; 2. Nine; 3. Because of high taxes (taxation without representation) OR because the British army stayed in their houses (bordering, quartering) OR because they didn’t have self-government); 4. (George) Washington; 5. Two; 6. Checks and balances OR separation of power; 7. The Louisiana Territory OR Louisiana; 8. World War II; 9. Japan, Germany, and Italy; 10. Fought for women’s rights OR fought for civil right.)

Maya Sanches is an associate at Lambert.