When I was younger I used to visit my relatives in New York every summer. My aunts and uncles would take us to many places like the Statute of Liberty or Times Square but Ellis Island was never one of the locations we visited. Now, I am finally able to say that I have visited Ellis Island. It was a very eye-opening experience for me. I have always learned about immigration and Ellis Island through textbooks but this time I was able to see everything in person and it had a much larger impact on me in person than it did when I read about it from a textbook.
The boat ride there was very exciting. I could feel the excitement building as we passed the Statue of Liberty and got closer and closer to Ellis Island. As I was on the boat I thought of how it was like for the immigrants who had to sail long distances to America. Some of them might even be turned away after the long trip if they were discovered to have illnesses. It’s sad to think that after such a difficult journey in which they spend fortunes on they can still be turned away and sent back home where they have sold everything. I also wondered how the immigrants would pass the time while on the boat without the devices that most of us have today such as cell phones, computers, televisions, etc. It made me realize how much our world has modernized. We have all this technology that we would seem lost without and we have huge luxurious ships for cruises unlike the ships back then that were probably crowded and unsanitary.
At the Ellis Island Museum, I found many interesting exhibits. One exhibit that I really liked was the Treasures From Home exhibit. It displayed many different ornaments, foreign devices, and clothing. Some of the items included teapots, linens, silk robes, bread baskets, silverware, and china. It was fascinating to look at because you can see the diversity of people that came to America from the items. There were people from China, Ukraine, Belgium, Ireland, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and many more. You can tell that the items were from different places based on the styles or patterns on the items such as the clothing, linens, and china.
In another exhibit I was able to take a test on a machine to see if I would have been accepted into America during that time. After taking the test I found out that I would not have been accepted into America because I am an unmarried woman and I was of Asian descent. In that same exhibit there was another machine in which we were given cases and we had to make decisions on those cases whether that immigrant should be allowed into America or not. After we made a decision, the machine would tell us the decision that the inspectors would have made on that same case. It was really interesting and it let you see how strict the inspectors were with letting people into America.
Afterwards I visited the Wall of Honor to look for my family’s surname. I was able to find my family’s surname on the Wall of Honor although I am not related to that person. Even though that person that I found with the same surname as me is not related to me I felt some kind of connection knowing that they came from the same country that my parents came from. I felt more sympathetic towards immigrants that had to go through this process because I would have been scared and I would not have wanted to go through the strict process of immigration.
Overall, going to Ellis Island was a great experience and I’m glad that I given the opportunity to go with my class and see it in person. It was definitely better to learn about Ellis Island in person than from a textbook.