A Whole New World: Freshman moves from Mexico to US, notes varying cultures

Jansen Hess, Sports Editor

A shy, 12-year-old girl lives the typical American life. She has a mom, a dad, two brothers and a sister. She has some of the best friends she’s known since kindergarten. One day, she’s told she will be moving roughly 2,000 miles away from the only life she’s ever known. Her classmates and friends are heartbroken. She can’t help but be scared and sad.
Although born in Los Angeles, freshman Monica Munguia was raised in Idaho for 10 years. “When I was 2 years [old], we moved up there, and my whole life was there in Idaho,” she said. “It’s kind of the same thing as Kansas. It was just like your basic American life. It was just normal.”
At age 12, she moved from Idaho to Mexico.
Munguia moved to Mexico because her parents were fixing their immigration papers, since both of her parents were born and raised in Mexico.
At first, it was just Monica, her mom and her sister who went to meet family in Mexico.
“I’d never met my grandparents, or my uncles or my cousins there,” she said. “But I guess something happened with the papers. When my dad crossed the border, he couldn’t go back.”
Her parents missed their interview to fix the papers, and, if you miss an interview, it’s not easy to reopen the case.
Munguia’s dad was looking for a good place to raise his family, a good school system and a place where he could get a job.
“We went to Cabos,” she said. “There’s lots of tourists, so my dad got a job because he can speak English and Spanish, and that’s what they were looking for.”
Although both of her parents speak Spanish, she said her Spanish was horrible before she moved to Mexico. She was too shy to speak.
The change for Munguia was very drastic.
“Where my cousins are from, it’s not [modernized], but they’re not old-fashioned at the same time,” she said. “It was a ranch, basically. And the schools were normal, but my parents wanted me in the best school. It was hard for me to open up. Not only was it a culture shock to come to a completely different lifestyle, but knowing so many people who apparently knew me when I was a little baby. I had no idea who they were. It was too much.”
When she was 16, she picked up her life again and came to Kansas, except she left her family behind in Mexico. She lives with her guardians Bob and Jodi Hileman, who are friends of her father.
“Randomly, one day, I got a phone call from them saying, if I wanted to, I could go to Kansas and stay with them,” she said. “They were going to put me in the best school that they could find, and obviously provide food, clothing and a place to stay until I can get a job of my own.”
Munguia has no plans to get a job until her sophomore year. For now, she wants to focus on her studies.
Although Munguia is 16 years old, she has to take mostly freshman classes.
“I lost two years,” she said. “It’s really complicated. When I got [to Mexico], I got really, really depressed — I did not want to live there at all. I didn’t finish middle school — well, here it’s middle school; there it’s elementary school. But I didn’t finish that.”
Munguia wanted to go into her first year of junior high but was not allowed to because she lacked a year in elementary school.
“My mom did a lot for me,” she said. “She went to the superior bosses of the principals and stuff, and they couldn’t do anything. They just said that’s the way it is and you’re going to have to repeat it. I studied for three years in junior high, and right in the middle of my third year, which is ninth grade, I came back, so now I’m a freshman.”
Munguia also lost a year of schooling while she was trying to get admitted into junior high in Mexico.
Munguia said the main differences between Mexico and the U.S. are education and discipline, and they go hand in hand.
“The schools — that’s the difference,” she said. “You can get a good education, but there are so many distractions. Kids are kind of crazy over there.”
In Mexico, at age 18, one becomes an adult and can begin to legally drink and party. But Munguia said most kids were already doing those things at age 15.
“That’s what I’ve noticed; that most kids live life to the fullest when they’re so young,” she said. “That’s the difference as far as discipline goes. It’s so easy to just skip [school]. It’s so easy to do whatever you want. It’s so easy to get away with things.”
She said the discipline is horrible in the majority of the kids in Mexico.
“That’s why the education here is a lot better than it is over there,” Munguia said. “But it’s not because of the school systems — that’s my theory. It’s not because of the school. It starts at home. There are kids that start getting problems, and they start getting deeper into it. You can’t drag them out of there. I’ve seen it with some of my friends, and it’s kind of sad.”
Munguia said having the opportunity to move to the U.S. was the chance she needed to regain focus in her school work.
“It was like a wake-up call,” she said. “I was losing control. I wouldn’t pay attention to my decisions. Their main focus is partying, and that’s it.”
Munguia said she likes how, in Kansas, she can go over to a friends house, watch movies, eat junk food and just hang out.
“The thing I like about here is it’s so calm and so mellow, and that’s me,” she said. “I like how, here, they can do the same things I can and still like it, but still enjoy a few parties. Over there, you’re boring if you do that. It’s hard to find people who actually do something because it’s fun. They’ll do it just to have something to do.”
Overall, Munguia said she was glad she had the chance to live in Mexico.
“I have so many good friends down there,” she said. “I’ve learned so much. I’ve made mistakes; I’ve learned from them. I’ve done good things that I still learn from. It’s just helped me open up more so I can have more friends. Now I’m more fun, more outgoing, and I thought it was just awesome. I have so many wonderful memories there. I’m hoping I will go back. That’s how I picture my future — living in the States and living in Mexico. It’s strange, yes — strange, but possible.”