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On my eighth birthday, my parents forcefully stripped me from my native China, forsaking the familiar, overcrowded landscape of towering skyscrapers and chaotic traffic in order to venture into a peculiar and alien territory known as Vancouver. There, the streets lay devoid of people. The skyscrapers I had once known were now transformed into a scattering of dwarf-like dwellings. The orderly array of traffic implausibly yielded to pedestrians.
But the most profound and devastating transformation concerned that mysterious gibberish that everyone spoke — everyone, that is, but me. Forlorn in a bleak land with no knowledge of English, I felt like an infinitesimal particle, lost and dejected. Though my parents had made the enormous sacrifices necessary to emigrate for my sake, I still felt betrayed. I entered grade three with that sense of betrayal deeply ingrained, and only further augmented by the fact that I was no longer within the safe reach of my parents. At school I was truly alone. My despondency and my communication difficulties had disastrous consequences regarding my education. As my worried parents watched my grades plummet, they began to wonder whether the move might have been a horrible mistake. Their loss of confidence did not help my situation; my sense of security was shattered.
It was then that David stepped into my life. David, whose hair was black like mine and whose Chinese was as fluent as his English, quickly became my solace, my savior, my friend. His presence filled me with a comforting sense of familiarity. We filled our weekends by heroically massacring virtual monsters, acting out gloriously perilous sword fights with thin tree branches, and attempting to produce music with our newly acquired recorders. Everything we could think of, we did — or at least tried to do. We even managed to complete our English homework, an endeavor that usually involved an exchange of my pestering questions for his patient answers.
Because of David’s friendship, my parents’ sacrifices did not go in vain. As David introduced me to my classmates and helped me learn to communicate, my self-confidence improved, as did my academic work. My grades finally improved, much to my parents’ relief and elation. With David’s help, I finally adapted to my new environment. I no longer felt like a homeless soul wandering in foreign territory, but rather a member of an amiable community in a country I now called home.
My accomplishments in life are closely related to David’s example. I, too, aspire to contribute my own expertise to the community, an urge that escalates with every achievement and milestone in life. Today, I am a tutor, a teaching assistant, and a volunteer at a summer camp for international students studying English. Whenever a tutee declares that I have helped him achieve one of his standards, I joyfully tell myself, “I, like David, have made a difference!”
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