We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofYiling Lin

The time is 5 a.m. The usually lively city is sound asleep and silence engulfs the streets, awaiting the morning sun. As I sit in the living room, mindlessly watching Germany score and win the 2014 FIFA World Cup thoughts fill my head. I was in my 5th year of elementary school in Hong Kong and my family was about to move to Taiwan. I was anxious about my future in my new school as the unforeseeable loomed ahead, but also desolate about leaving Hong Kong, a place that I grew up in and had come to love.

Taiwan was a familiar unfamiliar place for me. On one hand, I was accustomed to my Taiwanese family and culture, but on the other, I had never known Taiwan as a place, as a home. I was exhilarated to move to Taiwan to visit my grandparents and half-brother more often, but it was difficult to leave my friends and everything that I'd come to know in Hong Kong. I was feeling insecure as questions dashed into my head. What will happen to my friendships in Hong Kong? How would things change within my family? Would I fit into the new school and did I make the right decision? As I stared mindlessly at the television, the voices in my head kept getting louder and louder, overpowering the sound of enthusiastic football fans celebrating their victory. My thoughts continued to run wild, as I recalled past memories of being bullied at my old school in Hong Kong. I began questioning the reason I was bullied. Was it my cultural background? Was it my distinctive personality? Was it something I did? Would the same thing happen in my new school? This traumatic experience made me determined to simply blend in with the crowd.

Eventually, the first day of school came. I walked sheepishly into the classroom hoping to make new friends. I was frightened that I would not be able to fit into the class, given that I spoke Chinglish and was unaccustomed to American cultures. Introducing myself as “Elaine," my teacher misheard and thought I said “Yiling," which was what was on her attendance book. I felt too intimidated to correct her, and my Chinese name became permanent. 

Thanks to soccer I found my first new friend as I enjoyed playing on the soccer team in my previous school. She approached me during recess and offered to play soccer with me. I later became closer friends with my assigned study buddy who just happened to have many friends in the same grade. Through these opportunities, I was able to meet and bond with new classmates.

However, if only I’d remembered that my new school was an international American school… I would have realized that there would always remain a gap between me and them. I did not know what jolly ranchers were nor did I know what airheads were. These artificial sweets that were seemingly the most popular item for 5th graders did not appeal to me. I also didn’t know how to dress appropriately as I had worn uniforms before. There were people who laughed at my weird apparel choices and jokingly taunted me for wearing a full purple outfit. Thus, I became insecure once again. 

Yet, with my friend always there supporting me, I finally decided I’d had enough with insecurity and that I’d take action being proud of who I am and letting go of friends who made me feel inferior. Gradually, my fear of becoming a social outcast slowly waned and I became more confident. I began playing soccer again with my new friends. 

Looking back, I overwhelmed myself with insecurity and anxiety by over-thinking my blissful experience in Hong Kong comparing it to when I first came to TAS. But what it’s taught me similar to the night I watched the World Cup is that a player that thinks without taking action loses on the field of life. I’m a winner.

© Yiling Lin. 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.