We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofAjay Darjee

One bright sunny morning I laced up and grabbed my brand new backpack. I walked outside to a fresh breeze and calming greenery. 

"Hey Ajay, Hurry or else you're gonna be late," my mom said as she stuffed my lunchbox inside my backpack. 

I caught up with a friend of mine on the road and it hit me. I wasn’t prepared for what would happen considering I didn’t want to, due to past experiences. I was pretty scared and nervous but I had to face it, I had to go to school.

On my way I couldn’t stop thinking of what would happen if my first impression wouldn’t be enough for the teachers. Every step I took reminded me of the miles I had to walk to school in Nepal. I remember walking into class and being scolded by the teacher or getting hit with a ruler, just from being late or getting a question wrong. These fears always stayed with me through my childhood. 

Reaching the school door I saw a fair lady with a grin. Her eyes were sky blue and her hair was light grey with little bits of black. I put my hands forth expecting a barrage of attacks with a ruler on my hands, but to a delightful surprise, I got a warm hug. My expressions immediately changed from being scared to happy. I was confused and my face clearly showed. 

 “Come along now,'' she said as she led me through the hall. The view of the posters and artwork astonished me.

"It's amazing isn't it," she said, “these paintings and pictures are all the memories of Dame School; you'll be on these walls one day." 

I didn’t know most of the things she was saying but I understood when she said I would be there one day. I didn't think I was significant enough to be noticed let alone be put on the wall next to those amazing artwork, but still, I was at a loss for words. The schools back in Nepal weren’t as close to this school. My tutor walked me into class and I was front and center in the classroom. My eyes locked with my teacher and I bowed my head. Usually in Nepal, whenever a teacher walked into a class we would stand at attention and greet the teacher. I bowed my head and with the little English I knew, I said good morning. I expected for the teacher to scold and yell at me for being late, but to my surprise again, I was greeted with a delighted smile and a sweet voice. My teacher had short golden blond hair, bright blue eyes, and was very tall in height. My teacher got all my other classmates and introduced me to them. I felt as though my fear and nervousness went in and out of the window. I found another fellow Nepali who later became very good friends with me. I found myself interacting with the teacher and smiling.  After school I met up with my new friends and exchanged numbers when my friend surprisingly scared me. 

"Hey, how was school!?" he shouted while tapping my shoulder. 

"It was good,” I said with a giggling irritation. I didn’t realize this at school, but I finally put to heart that I found solace from this school. I was scared to come to school, but five minutes was enough to take out years of fear and displeasure and change me in ways I couldn’t even explain. In the end it wasn’t just the school that changed me, it was my willingness to accept the new things and forget the past and move on to a brighter future.

© Ajay Darjee. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.