I grew up in the hearing world, in the mainstream. I thought I was hearing, I had not looked at myself as a Deaf person.
I thought why not be an exchange student and go to America because there is a strong Deaf culture there. So I thought why not have a look, they gave me a free scholarship. I was about 16, that was in 1999.
When I got there I had such a shock. Everyone kept their mouths shut and signed, here people signed and used their mouth at the same time but there no, everyone had their mouth shut and only signed! It was so hard, so many blocks for me, they were all Deaf but I’m Deaf as well!
Ok, I went to an ASL (American Sign Langauge) class for two weeks. The ASL class was supposed to be 3 months long but I did it all in two weeks. I took it all in, I was determined to learn as much as I could because I wanted to communicate with all Deaf because I was half the world away from home, from my family, from New Zealand to be here in America.
Really it was worth it, it was a good experience for me, I was lucky because it was extended to two years because I got another free scholarship.
I was there from 1991 to 2001, I was 19 when I flew back. When I got back I was unsettled, I missed America, and I realised things were limited here. One thing that impacted me was that there are different levels, it’s not the same language for everyone. Its like, in the mind, there’s low, middle then intelligent – I learnt that in America. Before then I didn’t know about that.
Now, I really want what, my goal is for some Deaf students to GO to Deaf schools, xxx which is more strong there than here. Here is it really limited. If you go and fly to America or England, or France then when you come back encourage more Deaf to go.