- One junior reporter writes about the difficulties she had when she moved from Hong Kong to attend boarding school in the US
- It’s only natural for obstacles to appear, and it’s fine to ask for help
By Chloe Lau, 16, Blair Academy
Plummeting through the air, I fumbled for my parachute … but it was gone, and I was tumbling to the ground without any help.
Although my misgivings for skydiving prevented any possibility that this nightmare could turn into reality, it was was exactly how I felt at the start of my second year of high school.
I was excited for my new classes when I transitioned from a Hong Kong public school to an American boarding school. As I strode towards the Maths building on the first day, I remember thinking, “Algebra should be a piece of cake!”.
However, as soon as the lesson started, so did my descent into confusion.
To my horror, the board was filled with mathematical concepts I did not recognise. Back at my old school, learning approaches were completely different. I grew up thinking that the solution was the most important part of a math problem, and was calculated by simply using an equation. Here, understanding the process behind the solution was the most essential concept, including how equations are formed, how many ways a problem can be solved, and what steps led us to the solution.
It felt like I had to explain how to make a parachute, when I only had experience using one.
The same situation happened in my other classes. In English, I had to analyse literature by crafting a thesis instead of giving model answers. In history, I needed to write essays expressing my personal opinion on historical events instead of memorising facts and dates. All of a sudden, everything was open-ended, and I was thoroughly lost.
Just like that, the fall began.
Unfortunately, things did not improve after the first month. Seeing my peers flourish in class, I felt too self-conscious to ask my teachers for guidance, worried they would belittle my academic skills. One dreary night, I found myself ranting about my struggles to my sympathetic father, who studied in the US for university, over the phone.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if everything had black-and-white answers?” I huffed.
“Would you still call that life?” he replied.
I was left in a stunned silence, torn between crying and laughing at my foolishness. I was already facing culture shock and social differences - I should have expected disparities in my classes as well. When you start a new chapter in life, it is natural to run into obstacles, and academics is just one example out of the many you will face. But then realised that I could control what I did next, and I could either keep sinking into desolation or build my own parachute.
The next day, I stayed behind after class, finally opening up to my teachers. To my surprise, none of them expressed any disappointment about my troubles. Rather, they were glad I reached out, and eager to help me get acquainted with American learning methods.
Of course, this was easier said than done: it took many extra-help sessions, and lots of self-revision, progress feedback, and practice. Eventually, my class materials and assignments no longer confused me. Besides receiving several commendations from my teachers for my improvement, I even won an Outstanding English Award at the end of the year.
Not only do these achievements motivate me to continue working hard, but they also remind me what I am capable of.
With my third year of high school starting in one week, I know I can expect more academic challenges ahead. But I am ready to plunge into the sky, find my balance, and enjoy the exhilaration of the journey.