Friday, April 20, 2012

Learning to Drive In America: An Immigrant's Story


Every now and again it's good for me to crawl out from underneath the rock that I call my comfort zone and get to know people from other places. Not everyone learns to drive at 15 or 16. Today Julio C. tells us his story and challenges with learning to drive in the United States. Guest post by: Jeff Denenholz.

For Julio growing up in Central America, earning a college degree and starting a family prohibited him from owning a car and learning to drive until moving to Redmond, WA last November.  He realized immediately important differences between life in Latin America versus here.  “We never had a car for multiple reasons, so we had no license document at all.”

Not having a car has presented several challenges for Julio, mainly the lack of a driver’s license.  He quickly discovered what most of us already take for granted.  “We found that the driver’s license is usually the identification document for U.S. citizens, so it’s a must to have, even if you don’t plan to get a car immediately.”  

Thanks to a great job offer here, Julio is finally able to own a car and learn to drive. He says many friends and co-workers were surprised to learn this was his first time on the roads.  “Well, most people I talked with were quite impressed when I said that I had never had a car or driven before, at all. It seems like in the U.S. everybody gets a license and a car around 18 years old, or maybe before, but where I come from having a car while being so young can be quite a luxury that few parents are able to afford. Over there you usually get a car after getting your own job and working hard for a while. I was almost ready to get my car back there when we decided to move to another country.”

Julio was most concerned about learning to change lanes in the beginning.  “I was very afraid of making a mistake and crashing into another car by changing lanes. Also, parallel parking presented quite a difficult skill set to master.”

Carol Howie, professional driving instructor, tells me that many of her students like Julio never learned to drive due to lack of time or money.  For Julio, it was mainly credit card debt.  Carol doesn’t think there is a great difference between adults who were born here and those learning to drive after moving here from another country.  “They each are highly motivated for a job, for their family or to just get on with their life. We do have to deal with language differences sometimes, however. Then we draw lots of pictures at the side of the road.”

Julio agrees with Carol’s philosophy that the best way is to start with very simple tasks “baby steps” and build confidence along with the skills.  “Carol, a very patient lady, didn´t hesitate on giving me plenty of opportunities to practice and helped me go baby steps from the simplest things to know on the road to more challenging stuff like entering a highway.”

2 comments:

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Thank YOU for sharing your story with us!

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