Devoted mother makes move for children, quality of life

Michal Sarang Schmoisman’s international quest to find peace brings her to Bay Area


Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

Early childhood education major Michal Sarang Schmoisman thoughtfully works on a painting during her Art 124 class in A-6B on Feb. 19. Schmoisman immigrated to the United States to pursue a better life for herself and her children.

By Marlene Rivas, Staff Writer

The United States is seen to people in many parts of the world as the land of opportunity.

Many people leave behind their homes and everything they have ever known to embark on a journey in hopes of not only improving their lives but the people who they love.

This dream is exactly what led Michal Sarang Schmoisman to leave her home in Israel for Sao Paulo, Brazil and ultimately to Orinda, California to start her new life.

Schmoisman commutes to Contra Costa College to take classes to earn a degree in early childhood education while working in the Skills Center as a tutor for statistics and business.

“Changes are not a problem,” she said. “I believe in the concept that this is a small world and one should not be intimidated by drastic changes.”

The biggest challenge she faces, along with many other immigrants, is learning a new language.

While English is her second language, she embraces the challenge and does not let this obstacle limit her from excelling academically.

Her speech professor Joseph Carver said every time she speaks up in class she is taking steps toward understanding the English language while boosting her confidence.

“Sometimes during class you can see (Schmoisman) thinking through her thoughts,” Carver said. “You can feel her energy as she pushes through the language barrier.  She takes a couple of seconds but she completes the thought instead of getting stuck and giving up.”

International Education Coordinator Sui-Fen Liao said she recalls how Schmoisman scheduled to meet with her and get to know the school before her classes were even set to begin.

“She is disciplined,” Liao said. “She knows what she wants and she’s aiming for it.”

In the upcoming year, Schmoisman said she plans to work at a job off-campus that is directly related to her major.

Liao said that CCC was the best option for her or anyone else moving to the Bay Area from another country.

Schmoisman said her journey to the Bay Area began when a friend of hers in Israel introduced her to an Argentinian man whom she married and moved back to his country of origin in South America.

While living in Argentina for a short while they set up a business accessorizing the licensing of brands.

However, they could not remain there for long because of the economic crisis of 2000 so they decided to relocate their family and business to Brazil.

Upon arriving in another country, she fell in love with the natural beauty of Brazil and its wonders, but this new setting led to unimagined troubles for her family.

It turns out that Sao Paulo is a city riddled with violence — to the point where she said she was worried about the well being of her three children.

“They were afraid to walk the streets,” Schmoisman said. “I did not feel comfortable letting them even go outside.”

There was the constant risk of being assaulted. She was living proof of that having been robbed many times. She recalls how her youngest son would cling to her when walking through the streets.

Knowing that she wanted to give her children a better, safer life and not deprive them of a positive childhood, she decided on setting a new course for them.

Schmoisman decided to test her chances with a new life, all over again, in the Bay Area.

She managed to acquire a student visa and made the move, leaving her husband behind because he said he wanted to maintain the business. She said her life has changed for the best.

After recently arriving to Orinda, her youngest son would often ask, “There are no thieves here right? No one will get me?” She said she is now relieved over the fact that she can tell her children that they are safe.

The welcoming people and support that she has encountered has allowed her to continue succeeding in everything she does.

She said she chose to live in Orinda so that her son could attend Miramonte High School. The school has a high performing water polo team, which her son is very passionate about.

Having many reasons she can use to become discouraged or hopeless, Schmoisman has found a way to view her bad experiences as a doorway to new opportunities.

She said she is sure that her three children will thrive more in the Bay Area than anywhere else. She has a 14-year-old girl, 17-year-old son and her youngest son is in the first grade.

For now she is taking classes that work toward her major but she has enough time to also be able to take a class involving her favorite hobby — painting.

“Apart from being easygoing and friendly,” Liao said. “(Schmoisman) is open-minded and enjoys diversity.”

In the future she said she hopes to get her teaching certificate while trying to sell her artwork, which she is creating in class, on the side.

She said it is possible she will open up her own business in the U.S.