The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

No place quite like home

Examining what people at MVHS consider to be their “home”
Ashley Voigt posing with her future husband at their graduation from MVHS. Photo courtesy of Ashley Voigt | Used with permission

Although the first thought following the word “home” may be a physical house, in reality it encompasses a far wider range of places and people. To the Monta Vista community, home can be anything: family and friends, cultural values or their happiest memories.  

Suravi Sunil

Sophomore Suravi Sunil has moved more times in 15 years than most people ever will. She’s lived in 17 different houses and attended 11 different schools. However, she finds a common pattern throughout all of these: no matter where she goes, London will always be her home.

“Anytime I’m reminded of London or go back there, I feel secure because I’m reminded of my memories there,” Sunil said. “I used to live there when I was really young, so some of my first memories were from there. [Those with] the atmosphere of London make me feel like I’m at home.”

Suravi Sunil poses in a park in London. Photo courtesy of Suravi Sunil | Used with permission

Sunil’s favorite memories from London center around the people in the city. Over the years, she’s made close friends she still stays in touch with. Her old teachers left a lasting impact on her, especially her English teacher, who inspired her love for poetry and writing.

“[My teacher] gave me a notebook I started writing poetry in, which is how I developed my love for poetry,” Sunil said. “I [presented] my poem [at the Cupertino Poetry Contest [and] I got first place. They asked me what inspired the poem and I said ‘London’ because it was the emotions that I felt there and the reason why I started writing poetry in the first place. I guess it’s all connected.”

During her time living in Cupertino, Sunil has formed close relationships. Though she finds a sense of comfort in the city, London remains her home. The feelings the city induces for her can’t be replicated anywhere else. Due to this, she plans to move back to London permanently in the future.

“Every time I go there, [there’s] a feeling from the inside that [comes and] always makes me feel secure and happy and comfortable and positive,” Sunil said. “[The feeling’s constantly there] for me, which is why I love London so much, but there are times where it stands out. [It’s] that kind of thing [that] defines my experience [in London] that I love so much.”

Ashley Voigt

During the COVID-19 pandemic, MVHS counselor Ashley Voigt found herself more stressed than ever. She found that being at home had a deeply negative impact on her mental health. 

“I felt like work never stopped,” Voigt said. “It really took a toll on me because my living room was also my office [and this] is also where I sit and relax. For me, I’m a very structured person, and I really need to have that separation.

Ashley Voigt (right) poses with her sister during their time on the MVHS Varsity Softball team. Photo courtesy of Ashley Voigt | Used with permission

I couldn’t tell my brain that I was off work because I’m still in the same environment.”

Since coming back to working in-person, Voigt has made more of an active effort to separate her home environment from her work environment, allowing her home to remain a comfortable safe space. Working in-person has also allowed Voigt, who graduated in the MVHS class of 2009, to find home again in both Cupertino and Monta Vista.

“Monta Vista is more than just my job, it’s also where I grew up,” Voigt said.“It’s very special to me, because it impacted me growing up, and now I get to work here. No matter where I end up living, I think Cupertino will always feel like home to me because it’s so familiar.”

After living here for most of her life, Voigt finds familiarity in Cupertino through the roads and layout even though it’s changed over the years. Knowing the city and having memories here brings a comfort that Voigt feels she can’t find anywhere else.

“7-Eleven was still there when I was in high school,” Voigt said. “Everyone would go there. Even though I have not been back to 7-Eleven in many, many years, I drive by it all the time. It will instantly bring me back, like, ‘Oh, I have memories there, we used to get food there all the time.’”

Beyond the memories she made while living in Cupertino, being at MVHS had a large impact on Voigt growing up. She played both field hockey and softball during her time here and began dating her current husband while in high school. To Voigt, being in Cupertino and at Monta Vista brings a sense of happiness she hasn’t found anywhere else.

“Coming back here now, and being here [gives me] a feeling of safety,” Voigt said. “It’s very familiar, even though the campus has changed a lot. I’m very comfortable here. It’s my home.”

Minsi Zong

After living in Shanghai for 15 years, junior Minsi Zong moved to Cupertino in 2022. Despite the initial culture shock, she now considers both cities her home. According to Zong, a large part of her connection to China comes from the people and environment there.

“I have a big family in China and friends from middle [school] and elementary school. My only family here are my parents,” Zong said. “[And in] China, I’m speaking the language I’m familiar with and living in the house I’ve [owned] since I was four, [so] it’s home, [especially] when I’m just touching the furniture and breathing the air.”

Since moving to the United States, Zong has made close friends at school. However, due to cultural differences and norms, she finds her relationships in the two countries to be vastly different from each other and two distinct experiences.

“When I was in China, [at] school, the principals did not allow us to be too close,” Zong said. “They wanted the environment after school to just be studying by yourself instead of making friends. But I feel like in America, you can just [make] friends with a lot of people if you want to.”

To keep up her relationships with friends and family back in Shanghai, Zong continues to communicate through texting and phone calls, though she acknowledges that it has become more difficult after entering her junior year because she finds herself busier than before. 

“I used to keep in touch with my friends and text every day, but when the time goes by and I haven’t been back to visit them, it’s harder. I’m only talking to one person right now. We used to talk everyday and now [it’s] just like once a week,” Zong said. “I FaceTime [my family] twice a month now.”

Zong hopes to visit Shanghai again soon in order to reconnect with her friends and family there. She also dreams of returning in order to see the city again and soak up the atmosphere. But until then, Zong feels as if she has made a home for herself in California with the friends she’s made here and her parents.

“Home to me doesn’t only mean a place that I live,” Zong said. “It also means the city that I grew up [in] and the people there and the language we speak and the food we eat. Shanghai and Cupertino are [both] my homes.”

Maria Autran

In a recent conversation with a friend from Chile, Spanish teacher Maria Autran was discussing her plans after retirement. Her friend, along with many of her other immigrant friends, planned to return to their home countries. However, Autran can’t imagine ever returning back to Mexico, the country she grew up in.

“When you move, you long for many things in your homeland that you left behind. For many years, I thought that I would go back and that I [would] always consider Mexico my home,” Autran said. “But I graduated and then I got job offers and I was able to

Maria Autran posing in her home’s backyard. Photo courtesy of Maria Autran | Used with permission

make new connections and new friends. So I decided to stay here in California. As I started my adult life, I started to consider this place [my home].”

Autran moved to California 36 years ago. Since then, she’s hit many of her life milestones here, including her first job and first car. Although she felt incredibly homesick after first moving, her family helped her transition and find comfort in her decision. 

“Most of my aunts and uncles lived here. Mexican families tend to live next to each other or try to be together to help each other in difficult situations,” Autran said. “That makes your transition easier. Of course, when you go to school and you start working, you build connections. It’s important to do that to make friends for support.”

Moving to a different country came as a cultural shock to Autran. She found that many of the commonly accepted values in Mexico were not the same in California and vice versa. However, while living in Cupertino, Autran manages to find ways to implement tokens of Mexican culture into her daily life and work. According to Autran, teaching allows her to celebrate and follow traditions.

“We celebrate Day of the Dead and set up the altar in class, but also at home. We buy this bread on January 6, and we have to find the baby inside,” Autran said. “Then we do that too at home. We Mexicans celebrate Christmas. It’s an important gathering for us. [It’s] these little things. We cook traditional Mexican food. This is what we do to stay in touch with our roots.”

Autran visits her friends and family in Mexico annually, yet she doubts she will ever move back to the country. Because of the people here, her job and her house, Autran feels as if she’s found her home.

“When you feel at home, you feel at peace. You feel comfortable. You feel cared for. The people that live with you make your life happier in a good way,” Autran said. “That feeling [of] happiness for me is being home.”

About the Contributor
Suhana Mahabal, Staff Writer
Suhana is currently a sophomore and a staff writer for El Estoque. In her free time, she loves to read, rewatch Shameless and listen to Taylor Swift.
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