Frenki-Lulgjuraj: An Albanian’s First 60 Days in T-D


By: Frenki-Samuel Lulgjuraj, Staff Reporter

I am Frenki-Samuel Lulgjuraj, a 16 years old boy born in Elbasan, Albania, a country 4,460 miles away from the US. I’m in 10th grade right now and studied in my hometown for nine years before coming to Thornton-Donovan School on September 5, 2017. Since then, I’ve  lived here for over 60 days with a new family, new friends, new school, and a totally different lifestyle.

The only thing that my former school has in common with Thornton-Donovan is that both cover grades K-12. However, my school in Elbasan, Luigj Gurakuqi, has 10 times as many students than T-D. It is a three-floor building painted yellow, with big halls and large classrooms. Surrounded by a rocky field and filled up with benches, trees, basketball courts and a soccer field, the school’s area is roughly the same as T-D’s.

I only heard about Thornton-Donovan mid-summer when Sokol, my dad, was in the US and participated in the 2017 commencement ceremony. Since my grades were excellent, my dad talked with Headmaster Fleming to see if there were any chances for me to continue my high school years here at T-D.

After they agreed, I completed the necessary procedures, and at noon on September 5, I landed at the JFK International Airport. It was a 10-hour flight overseas and I had no thoughts going through my mind, but when I stepped off the plane, my mind was full of confusing thoughts. This was the first time in my life that I felt terrified. Thankfully, my dad was with me and gave me confidence.

A cousin picked us up from the airport, so we had a place to stay, which was important because we still hadn’t found a host family. My only thought that first night in New York was that I would not see my true family for the rest of the year. Deep inside, I felt lonely and had no idea what would happen with my life.

The next morning I awoke to the loud noise of the city, ate breakfast, and then came to school with my dad. To tell the truth, I was more curious to see T-D than excited to be part of it. When I got in, a strange feeling was going through my body – a little bit of fear, curiosity, and excitement. My dad recognized Mr. Fleming’s voice talking on the phone. He is a very wise man who made me trust myself and showed me of what I can be capable of by choosing the subjects that I liked, something that I couldn’t do in Albania.

The first teacher that I met was my Italian teacher, Mrs. Bubesi, who ironically is Albanian. She gave me some little pieces of advice as we went through a tour of the school. That day, Mr. Fleming also found my host family, the Livingstones, who have made my stay here amazing; they have treated me like one of their own children, and I consider them  my second family.

The following day, September 7, 2017, the school year began and I met a lot of new friends from all around the world. It was a great experience sharing my experiences with them, learning things about other countries, understanding manners and lifestyles all around the globe. In this setting, I didn’t feel like a foreigner at all.

One of the most important things that I have learned at Thornton-Donovan is that everyone is the same, no matter the skin colour, religion, or origin. We are equal people who live and work together. People might be racist or discriminate against others, but there is no reason for me to be like this. Instead, I want to know more about people and hear about their lives.  This was a desire I never thought I would wish for.

As the days go by, I feel that I am becoming a better person, learning more things, improving my skills in different subjects, making new friends, and getting used to everything. Every day I am increasing my chances of being somebody in life.

I am the youngest child of three in my family, two boys and a girl, the one that elder siblings and relatives took care of, but now I have started to take care of myself and have my own life. I don’t know yet if this is going to be my first or only year at T-D, but for as long as I’ve been here, Thornton-Donovan has changed my life.