When people think of China, I think they often think of places like Beijing and Shanghai, these sprawling metropolitan places packed tight with millions and millions of people. Or maybe they think of the cold, gray country that exists to the west. My birth city, Guilin, is nothing like these places. I come from the southern part of China, from the Guangxi province, where everything is warm, green, and beautiful. I was lucky to be born in Guilin. My family was lucky also, and were quite prosperous in the years before I was born. Still, I was the first in my family to be given the opportunity to study abroad, an opportunity that many Chinese children never have.
When I was a young child, I saw first-hand the importance of family to my mother and father. My father’s father developed Alzheimer’s when I was in Grade Five, and his mother lay paralyzed in bed, but every day, no matter how busy he was, my father came to visit them in their nursing home. I came to understand the value of love and familial relationships, and this understanding would affect me greatly later, when I was given the opportunity to study abroad in America. I could see that my family-- my mother and father in particular-- placed a large emphasis on familial closeness and filial responsibilities, and yet, they were still supportive of my ambition to study in America. Their support has made my trials and triumphs throughout the years mean more.
I fell into learning English by chance. Of course, everyone must study English in school, but it was my curiosity and drive to help people that caused me to gain confidence in my English. I attended the Foreign Language School at Guangxi Normal University, and I met several foreign students there. I organized outings in the city for them, and quickly improved my spoken and written English. I came to realize that if I improved, I could study abroad-- something that no one else in my family had done. I worked very hard in school to keep a good GPA and make my family proud.
Fate continued to smile on me as I took chances in high school. Once, after seeing a Chinese tour guide struggle to communicate with her foreign client, I stepped in and gave her a hand. After this happened, I was allowed to become a Volunteer for Tourism Consulting, which gave me the opportunity to practice my English and have contact with foreigners-- it was a kind of test run for my time in America.
I took some chances when I was a teenager and young adult, and some had positive outcomes, while others had negative outcomes. When I decided to study abroad, my family gave me their full emotional and financial support. But I overestimated my ability to cope. When I first came to America, I was lonely; I was spiritually lost, and I had difficulty making close friends. It was easy to find acquaintances, but I quickly learned the value of true friendship. I also learned that one of the things that was making me unhappy was trying to make everyone like me. Instead, I focused on finding true friends and doing what I believed to be right.
The lessons I learned my first year in America were nothing that could ever be taught in a classroom. I had lived in China all my life, and suddenly, I was experiencing something completely different. At first, I struggled. I had money stolen from me by someone I considered a friend. I had difficulty keeping up with the pace of my IESL class, and I found myself more and more discouraged. It seemed that I would cause trouble in my life and hasten to solve it, only to cause an entirely new problem.
One night, when I was feeling very bad, I decided that I had to calm down. My parents were so hopeful about my prospects in America, and I did not want to let them down, so I began to change my life. I practiced piano after class, and I studied hard. I learned to cook, and then finally, I began travelling. I saw New York, Los Angeles, and Hawaii, and with every new experience, I grew. Suddenly, I realized that I was no longer the child that left China-- I was an independent adult, and it was a wonderful feeling.
When I came to America, I came to learn business. I worked really hard in my studies to keep a good GPA, but I also came to understand that studying is not the only thing one needs to do to achieve. I started participating in extracurricular activities like piano, and I also became a Chinese language tutor at my current two-year college, Green River Community College. Tutoring people gives me joy because I can pass my knowledge on to people who need it. It taught me the importance of cooperation, which I think is very important for a businessperson. It is a great way for me to practice my communication skills with people in two languages.
My current school, the Green River Community College, has been a fantastic place for me to learn. However, I have outgrown the resources available at this school, and I am hoping to transfer to a four-year institution where I can receive proper business training. The University of Washington provides its students with a set of fantastic opportunities, particularly in their business school. I want to become an accountant to help businesses analyze their strengths and weaknesses; the University of Washington’s accounting program offers so much real-world experience and hands-on training that it is unparalleled by other institutions.