Growing up is always a teenager’s dream. When I was little, I always wanted to grow up sooner and sooner. Little girls will put on their mom’s high-heel shoes even though the shoes do not fit. All little children imitate adults. Although I am considered an adult now, I am not sure if I feel like one.
My 18th birthday party was the best birthday ever, and it was the first party I had in my life. I invited all of my friends to come to my house. We had dinner together and BBQ in my backyard. We grilled our own food, ate it, and then chatted. My friend Grant brought his guitar with him, and he was singing “happy birthday” for me with his guitar while we sat around a bonfire. When my friends sang the birthday song to me, I was particularly touched. The flames were jumping and shining on their smiling faces; I felt closer to them than before. They slept over, and we watched one of our favorite TV shows, “The Big Bang Theory.” The next day, I woke at noon and made some waffles for them. We had a lot of fun that night.
I just felt extremely happy and lucky to know them and be friends with them. After I came to America, they have given me help when I need them. They always gave me some ideas when I make some hard decisions (for example, what kind of classes I should take in my senior year) and helped me to relax when I felt stress form my AP exam. They have always been with me whenever I needed support. When I had a hard time choosing my college, they supported my coming to Furman, because I would be more comfortable in small classes at Furman. One day they took me to a restaurant called China Town because they know I like Chinese food. I told them America does not have real Chinese food but that food was close. They think I’m so funny when I talked to the Chinese waiter in Chinese. This restaurant has a buffet, so it is a good deal for a student.
Also, my friends showed me a lot of American culture and tradition. They invited me to join their weekend. I went hunting, watched an NFL game, and went to motorcycle week. I had a lot of fun, and they defined my American life and helped me not feel homesick, even though I live so far away from home. Sometimes calling my parents is not the best choice, so I call them only when it is necessary. When I turned eighteen years old, I legally became an adult, and I shared this moment with people who are very important in my life. I can’t live without my friends. They help me grow.
Three years ago, when I walked out of Chinese Customs, I knew that I would spend a whole year in a country that I had never been to before. I would also be by myself. I would not only have to take care of myself, but also to do so in my non-native language. I remember when I was standing in the Washington airport and feeling lost. It was the first time that I felt alone and afraid. As all the people passed me, hurriedly walking away just like in a movie, I stood all alone; I thought that I must have looked lonely and helpless.
My aunt came to pick me up and took me to her house. I had only met her once on Skype, yet I felt an instant connection to her—not only because I knew who she was, but also because as a Chinese person, she was familiar. When she showed me my room, I saw that she had taken a lot of time to decorate it for me; when I walked into my room, there was a Chinese character that means lucky on the wall, and the bed and sheet were my favorite blue and pink. Also, there were cute flowers on my table and new towels in a clean closet. It is a sweet and pretty room just like the one I have in China. She and her family wanted me to feel welcome and feel at home. And they took me shopping and out to dinner. They also showed me my new school. I was glad that they did so much for me, but I knew that I would still have many obstacles that I would have to face on my own.
A year later, the first high school I went to in the U.S., Grace Christian Academy, was shut down, and I had no school to go to. My aunt's family was worried that I did not have a school to go to next year. I knew that I needed to face this on my own, so I contacted all of the high schools in the area online to see if they would accept an international student, and then made appointments for interviews.
Visiting schools helped me to understand the characteristics of each school and every school’s attitude toward me. In the process I learned how to pick the right school for me and make friends in one day that could never be taught from a textbook. Some schools were welcoming and patient, but others were not. Finally, I picked Pinewood Prep School; that is the one I liked the most, and now I know that I made the right decision. I had good experiences at Pinewood Prep School. I met many good friends and teachers there. They made my American life better.
This experience was my first step towards becoming an adult. I have been in America for three years, which is not a long time, but I have grown more than I did in China. At home, I am like a little girl; mom always cooks my favorite food, and I can have what I want all the time. I lie in my mom’s arms and talk to my dad about my American life and how I have become so fat in America!
Yet when I leave China, I will be mature me again, not a little girl anymore. I will drive by myself, write essays in the library at 4 o’clock in the morning, keep my dorm clean, and make more friends in a new school.
My parents said at first when I left home to study here, they were so worried about me because I always have been a little girl when I am at home. They called me everyday, and the first couple of times, I cried a lot on the phone. I talked about how sad I am everyday and how I can’t make friends with other people because I was afraid to talk to somebody who I don’t know. I just feel stupid sometimes.
But after all of my fear about talking to people in English and being uncomfortable in a new culture, I felt more comfortable now than before. I used to solve problems by myself. I knew that I can’t just throw my problem to my parents because that only makes them more worried. So I started to tell them some happy news, like I went to a great dinner with my friends and am making new friends everyday. I am learning to drive here, I have acquired a scuba diver’s license, and I am doing better on my tests. So, when I had my high school graduation, my mom flew all the way here to watch it. And the words she said after my graduation were, “I’m so proud of you, you really grow up.” She had never said that to me before.
However, I still do not really know when I will be really grown up—maybe when I start my own job and can afford to live on my own. But I know that I am still working on it. For right now, studying harder and learning more skills is important for the future. It makes us grow up.
The process of me growing up has been successful. I have strived due to the support from my friends and parents. Growing up is a process. For me, this process is challenging—solving problem, making new friends, living and studying in a foreign country by myself. This process is painful and hard, but after all of that, everything, just like the rainbow after rain, is so pretty and amazing.