First Days Project: Tatiana Bereznikova

“I noticed that people smiled at strangers a lot. I thought it was so weird. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me but they smiled at me anyway.”


Tatiana did not want to come to America.

“I was upset at first because I didn’t want to leave my friends and family. It was especially upsetting because there are so many mean stereotypes about Americans in Russia.”

“My classmates actually told me they hoped the plane that would take me to America would crash because I was basically betraying my country. I don’t blame them. I just think grownups used very harsh language about Americans around kids… that’s why they were so cruel.”

Tatiana’s misgivings later gave way to excitement.

First Days Project: Cheng Imm Tan

Cheng Imm Tan came to the US from Malaysia as a student in 1978. The way she tells it, her parents were against the idea, but she was determined.


She researched American colleges that had accepted Malaysian students before, and randomly sent out applications. Soon enough, she’d landed herself a scholarship from Wilson College in Chambersburg — a small town in southern Pennslyvania.

On the plane ride over, she remembers sitting next to a businessman.

“Aren’t you scared?” he asked her.

“I speak English,” she replied. “Why should I be scared?”