Student, Immigrant and musician
International student Ivan Mendez and his America cover band recently showed off their musical abilities to a packed house at Coconut Joe’s banquet hall.
“The response was amazing,” said Joe Coughlin, Mendez’s adoptive father and owner of the restaurant Coconut Joe’s. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
“It was an awesome experience to watch them,” said Ami Coughlin.
Listening to lead singer and guitarist Ivan Mendez’s vocals, it’s almost impossible to tell English is Mendez’s second language.
Mendez moved to the United States when he was around 12 years old and says that the transition was difficult at first.
“I don’t want to say it was a culture shock, because it’s not the same move to America from Mexico as the move to America from say, Europe…but I would say it was somewhat of a culture shock.”
Leaving behind his mother and hometown of Colima in Mexico, he says, was extremely difficult.
“The first year was really hard, trying to learn the language, trying to adopt a culture, trying to get friends. It was just everything,” Mendez said.
He said it took him about two years to really pick up English and find himself friends who would help him with his new language.
“I tried my best. Every time I was in a class, I’d sit down and watch how people move their mouth. Try to pick it up from there,” he said. “I’d repeat a lot, everything I heard. Somebody would say a word, and I’d repeat it until I got it down.”
Mendez felt it was extremely important for him to assimilate to his new home.
“If you move here from another country, you must learn English in order to succeed. You can get by just speaking Spanish, but you’re not really going to go farther than anybody else.”
“Ivan’s just been on this great journey and path in life and so we saw an opportunity to help him along with his journey,” said Joe Coughlin.
Mendez says his new family was a perfect fit and that the adoption was the influence that split the old Ivan into the new Ivan.
“I started to get so much more education about everything; life and even music perspectives,” said Mendez.
Majoring in business marketing, Mendez says his priorities are school, then the band, then helping out with the family business.
Although music is a passion of his, he says being an international student means he has to choose his educational career path carefully.
“Because I’m an international student, fees are very, very high for me, so if there’s a class I want to take, I really have to think about if I’ll get something really good out of it.”
He says a three-unit class for him costs around $1,000, which is another reason why he chooses to major in business rather than music.
He says he does have to sacrifice a lot for all the work that goes into being a student and musician.