Presented by Hannah Lee ’15 during a Cultural Identity Event on Friday, January 13, 2012 in Williston Northampton School’s Cox Room.
I went to Canada at the start of 6th grade, by myself, as a homestay student. For those who don’t know, being a homestay student means that I live with another Canadian family in a house while my parents are still back in Korea. I spoke literally no English at that time.
This transfer from Korea to Canada, home to an unknown world, and family to strangers was a very, very tough one. I remember my first few days in Canada, when I didn’t even have enough confidence to get homesick, when I was too nervous to cry or complain. The blurring moments of confusion for the first few weeks is still unimaginable. I couldn’t call my mom because I didn’t know where the phone was in the house, and couldn’t generate that simple question, “Can I use the phone?” to this foreigner living with me. I could never get used to the food always so cheesy and greasy. Cold milk in the morning made my stomach hurt all day.
School wasn’t much better either. Mr. What’s-His-Name would babble in English, and I would sit and stare at his mouth, wondering what in the world he was saying. I stayed up all night flipping through dictionary to at least finish my homework. I found myself crying most of the time. I hated the feeling when everyone looked at me when my teacher asked me to read out loud to the class. There seemed to be no space for me to fit in in this condensed society I was dropped off. Calling my mother and hearing her voice coming across the vast ocean every night was the only joy I got out of my life. Every day was a long endless nightmare. There seemed to be no brighter future. I had been an out-going kid in Korea, but I then wondered if I could ever be like that ever again.
Talking about Canada and all the incidents, I could go on for hours. But surely I made things better later on. I learned English relatively fast and made some friends who helped me out a lot. The transfer from elementary school to high school was smooth, and I even dared myself to speak as a representative of my grade for the whole region. Although I had four homestays in total, I had issues with all four of them, and had some agonizing surprises during my 2½ year stay in Canada, but none of these obstacles really challenged me as getting settled in Canada did.
I matured through the hardships I went through in Canada. I realized what love my parents offer me each day of my life. Being in such poor emotional state at the time, I ended up being daunted by the end of my first year. Since then, I’ve been trying to get out of the shell I have put around me in order to protect myself from the others, and I still am in the process of it. I try to talk more and enjoy challenges. There are going to be countless more challenges in my life. I believe this experience I have gave me a good taste of what most challenges feel like, and now that I know whatever comes, everything gets better if I’m trying hard enough and fighting all myself for it, I will have the faith throughout my other upcoming challenges later in my life.