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May 13, 2015

A Centennial Student to Look Out For: Syntyche Nzeza

by Ginny Martinez

“I want to be a journalist,” says sophomore Syntyche Nzeza when asked what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. “I know it won’t be easy, but I am willing to work for it.”
Nzeza came to America four years ago from the Congo Kinshasa, in hopes of obtaining a better education. Her father had won the lottery. Contrary to popular belief, this lottery did not have a cash prize, but rather a ticket to our country with a green card and a chance at the ‘American Dream.’
Syntyche and her family will be able to become legal U.S citizens in five to six years, which is considered lucky in the immigration process. Although Nzeza welcomes the idea of America now, she originally did not want to leave. Her father was a judge, making a steady living, and she was always around family growing up. “I left everything I had behind,” she explained, “My friends, my home, and my family.” She was not able to leave the U.S when her grandmother was ill, and was never able to say goodbye when she passed away last year. Her eldest brother, Flauris Nzeza, was twenty-one when the family won the lottery, and as an adult, he couldn’t accompany his parents and siblings to America. He would have to play and win on his own, and the chances are bleak.
“I miss him a lot, but my father is trying to bring him over,” said Nzeza, looking down at her hands. Immigrating legally to the United States takes a great deal of time and a lot of different procedures needed to be taken before Flauris could even hypothetically enter the country. Nzeza explained that Flauris is now exploring different options, and is looking for citizenship in Europe. He was told the process could last more than fourteen years before he was even considered for citizenship.
“When I first came here I spent a lot of time with myself,” Nzeza admitted sheepishly, “I didn’t know anyone or any English, and those who tried to talk with me I couldn’t respond to.” Learning the language was one of the hardest parts about immigrating to America, as well as adapting to the culture. School is much different here than it is in the Congo. “Everyone takes their education more seriously back home.” she said. Nzeza talked about how school is a privilege only available to the upper class in the Congo, so school is put to a much higher regard and is enviable by most. “If you were chatty, you got hit. If you talked back, they cut your hair.”
“It will be hard, but I want to go to college.” she stated. “My sister’s will have it easier than I have since they came here earlier.” Her smaller siblings, having come here earlier in their education, have easily adapted to the America aesthetic and culture. “Sometimes my mom gets mad and says they have lost ‘all their Congo.'” she had explained. At home her sisters’ speak mostly English. When they are asked a question in French, Nzeza admits they often do not know the answer because they have forgotten their first language. Nzeza’s youngest sister, born here in America, is already a U.S citizen. Syntyche assumes she will have no problem adapting to the American school system when she is old enough to go. It is difficult to work here in the United States if you are not a native citizen. Nzeza has seen these impacts firsthand. Her father works several jobs at factories, and when he is not working, he is taking classes, trying to make himself more applicable to other jobs. She understands that because there was a language barrier she has a lot of “catching up” to do. Syntyche Nzeza definitely has her work cut out for her, but she knows who she is and what she is capable of. She doesn’t falter easily.

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