“You can always succeed as a third culture kid.”

One year ago, I was a new student with a really limited English level in my current school. Although I was born in Japan, I grew up in China and lived there for 12 years. Thus, everything I touched in Tokyo was relatively new for me.  When I told the people in my grade that I had never used Facebook or YouTube in 16 years, they all stared at me with unbelieving expressions.

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Now that I am a senior in high school, I totally fit in the environment and enjoy life here. I get along with my classmates really well. I participated in several big school events in the past year. I have over 200 friends on Facebook who are from different international schools in Japan. Although junior year passed in the blink of an eye for me, it was definitely the most meaningful year in my life.

As a third culture kid, it is hard to deny that language is always one of the biggest obstacles when you want to communicate with other people.  I generally understand those students who are actually extroverts and are eager to make friends but, because of language, they cannot express themselves very well.

I was born in Japan and lived in Tokyo until I was five. When I first returned to my home country, China, I could not speak even a single word of Chinese. Going to school was a nightmare for me everyday, because no one in school wanted to talk to me. I will never forget the feeling of standing alone on the side of the playground and watching other child play. However, instead of falling apart due to the immediate frustration, I chose to keep moving forward no matter how other children treated me. Making friends became the biggest motivation for me to study Chinese. I spent an extra year at a Chinese kindergarten. My mom sent me to a drama club in order to help me make more friends. After I got into elementary school, I studied Chinese even harder. Later, more and more children became my friends. I gradually realized that your cultural background is actually not a big deal if you can hold a positive attitude in order to make things better.  No matter how difficult the situation you have in front of you, you should always keep your face toward the sun. When I started to learn English, I told myself: “You have already overcome Chinese, the hardest language in the world. You can become a fluent English speaker.”

When I studied in the local Chinese school, I was the only person who had had an extended experience living abroad. However, after I returned to Tokyo and studied at an international school, I found out that I was not the “special” one anymore. Everyone at my new school had their own cultural backgrounds. Some students moved to a new country every two years because of their parents’ work. Some students were mixed heritage.  Thus, being able to speak several languages was a really common thing for students there. I could easily empathize with them and I also felt really comfortable talking with these students. Sometimes people are too shy to talk to the strangers, and they wait until someone comes to say “Hi” first.  Of course it would be really great if someone talked to you first and helped you become familiar with the school. However, if it does not happen, you should not wait but step up and make it happen. If you want to become a friend, you have to be the one to extend friendship first.

If you are a new student in your school, I would highly recommend that you be active and join the clubs and teams that you are interested in. Everyone has talents, so please do not stop trying because of those unnecessary concerns. You will never know the result of a musical audition or varsity team selection unless you give a try.  A famous American opera singer, Beverly Sills, once said: “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”  There is never a disadvantage for trying out something, even if the result is not the same as you expected. The most important thing is what you learn from those amazing experiences. Get ready for the next chance that comes your way.

Many people said that junior year would be the busiest year in high school, and it was. But,  I never regretted about what I did in this year. I tried for all the things I was interested in, like drama, speech showcase, show choir, and the musical. Those experiences made my junior year about more than just academics. I actually combined studies with the things I loved. Consequently, I met many people who had something in common with me.

As a third culture kid, I enjoyed studying English in my school. At the same time, I also enjoyed pursuing the things I had a passion for. I still remember the day when I got my first semester report. My homeroom teacher said to me: “I am not worried about you, because I think of you a student who has been here for ten years.”  It did not mean that I had outstanding grades on my report. In fact, I got relatively low scores on my Advanced Placement (AP) classes. However, I never dropped my enthusiasm to study those subjects. When some of the sophomore girls asked me how I felt about the AP classes, I always said: “It’s quite a challenge, and you have to spend a lot of time working on them, but definitely worthwhile.” Being an optimistic person, I think it is crucial to enjoy the moment and enjoy the thing you are doing right now. Moreover, what I would like to say is that no matter which country you come from, what kind of personality you have, or how long have you been in your current school, you can always succeed as long as you have a willing heart.