By Winnie Lee (Yu-Chieh Lee)
I’m now an international student at UCSD. My first year just ended, and I loved it. I cannot remember what I was thinking two and a half years ago; I was so reluctant to study abroad and leave my friends.
During my junior year in high school, my parents suggested me to study in the States for college. It was a life-time opportunity, and I was lucky enough to have parents being so supportive, so I thought, “Why not? “ However, when they then told me I would have to transfer to a bilingual class in our school, this tiny thing was enough to make me change my mind.
See, the original class I was in was a science class, and has had a long history with the bilingual class. Since, we were the only two classes that consists of both boys and girls, and were the only two classes that remained the same class all the way back from seventh grade, we’ve known each other the longest and was always competing against each other in all those school held competitions. Both classes each had these prejudice images of the other. My original class sees the bilingual class as a bunch of spoiled kids (well, their tuition was twice as much and lots of them were like very very rich), students that only had to do little work, never studied, but always complained the material was difficult, always partying, etc. On the other hand, the bilingual class probably sees the science class as a bunch of nerds, always studying, proud and arrogant, things like that.
So, we were basically like rivals.
Transferring to the bilingual class was probably the last decision I would make, ever, during that time. It was the most tragic thing that struck me. After I transferred, I felt extremely awkward in the class. I felt like I was betraying my old classmates and had abandoned them right before the important college entrance exam in Taiwan. As a result, I held on to my prejudice and never tried to fit in to the class. Every single day was extremely miserable. I was lonely and had no one to talk to, or it was more like I wasn’t willing to step up and talk to anyone. I dreaded going to school, which I had never felt like that before transferring, and fell in love with the bell that dismissed class. I would then grab my backpack and run all the way back to my former classroom.
Transferring also meant that I could no longer attend an important tradition our school held each year for seniors. The tradition was our coming-of-age ceremony, and we would go on a four-day hiking trip to the second highest mountain in Taiwan, the Snow Mountain. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since eighth grade, and knowing that I could no longer go with my friends was like the sky falling. Thankfully, the school gave me permission to go with them. If anyone asked, the Snow Mountain trip was no doubt the best days of my life. I was living in the moment and was filled with so much joy. During the four days, I only thought about the fabulous time I was having, I was enjoying the moment of being with my friends that not once did I think about the depressing moments I had to face again when I got back.
During the trip, when we got to the mountain peak, we all shouted our dreams toward another mountain. I will always remember I said that I wanted to transfer back and then bursted into tears. I will also always remember how all my classmates cheered. When we all got back to the ground, we wrote our wishes toward each other on a paper sticked to our back. I got all teared up when I read them, that’s when I learnt my first lesson. I understood that my friends never thought I abandoned them, instead, they all sincerely wished me luck and all the best in my decision. I felt silly that I worried we would no longer be close because I didn’t spend as much time together as we use to .True friends will always be friends, they will always be there standing behind our backs, supporting our decisions and hoping the best for us.
After the trip, I felt more settled down. It seemed to me I had finished everything I could with my old class, and it was time for me to move on. I became more engaged with my new class and made new friends, some of which became my best friends. I got to take off my prejudice lens I had on and know these people with a brand new lens. Something for sure, they were nothing like what I originally thought. They were friendly and kind, caring and funny, they were everything one could ask for from a friend. And yet, I’ve never noticed before. That, is the second thing I learned. To never meet a person or encounter any experience with prejudice. It affects everything, the way we see it, the was we interpret it, and the way we think. There will be so much that is going to be missed if we live our lives with prejudice.
So thanks to the Snow Mountain trip, I stayed in the bilingual class. And here I am, studying in the states. An experience I could never have imagined two years ago, learning new culture, getting to know people of all different races, and loving life.