I Learn Library

A human library inspired by the stories in the film

I hated myself for being different

By Kelly (Chao Yan Yu)  |   From : Clifton Park, NY  |   School : Shenendehowa H.S.

I was born in a rural village called Hujiang, China. In Hujiang, nobody owned cars, everyone walked.

I then lived in a small city called Fuzhou for six years during elementary school. When I was 12, I moved to the United States. I initially stayed in Alabama for one year before moving again to Michigan for two years; now I live in upstate New York.

When I arrived in the United States on September 22, 2011, I saw my mother for the first time in seven years. When our eyes met, it was a little emotional because she felt like a stranger yet so close. Both of my parents have only finished grade school and my grandparents are illiterate. My mother came to the States in 2004 because she could not get a job in China without a degree.

My first year in America I went to Cullman, Alabama because my uncle had offered a job to my mom. The town where I lived in Alabama did not have many African American students because it was home to many Ku Klux Klan members who engaged in many racially hostile activities. At first I did not know that but I found it strange and intimidating that I was the only Chinese student besides my cousin. I was surprised how different we were in appearances. In China, everybody had black hair, similar style and manners. However, in the new school, everyone was very eager to express their daring feelings and opinions. In China, the students suppressed part of themselves in order to obey the rules. It was very difficult at first because I did not speak any English and the school system is very different. For example, in China, we do not go to a different classroom after every period; teachers are much more strict, and we need to wear uniforms on Monday. I was a shy girl. I never initiated in conversation or said anything goofy because I was so afraid of people judging me. I had no friends because I could not communicate with my classmates. Our worlds seem very far apart. For a long time , I considered myself an outsider. I hated myself for being different, for speaking Chinese, and worst of all, for being me. I was also frustrated that you have to drive if you want to go somewhere. In China you could just walk. I couldn’t go anywhere. As a result, I read a lot of books in my free time. My English improved a great deal by the end of my first year.

Moving to a foreign country changed my life forever. It has not hindered me that I came from a country that is culturally distinctive, in fact, it empowers me to do bigger and greater things.


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