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I opened the door, immersing myself in the crisp, chilly air of Portland, Oregon. I had just traversed the vast Pacific Ocean, and I was now in America. How I ended up here, I was not quite sure. All I knew was that I stood there — homesick, uneasy, and overwrought — with my family among the millions of immigrants coming to America; every one of us carrying nothing but a little hope—the hope to attain a better life.
I was brought up in the electrifying, motorbike-filled Ho Chi Minh City, where I spent my childhood venturing through the narrow alleys of my neighborhood, constantly on the search for an adventure. At twelve, I finally found that adventure as my family started our new life in a humble, one-room apartment in Portland, Oregon. Adapting to the new environment was tough. I could remember going home everyday, seeing the worried faces of my parents — worrying about whether food stamps and our savings would be enough for the winter. Desperately, my parents searched everywhere for jobs, but they weren’t hired due to their poor English skills. However, things got better as I became more proficient in English; I soon became the foundation of my family and I was able to translate and handle our financial affairs on behalf of my parents.
Another battle emerged as I started going to school. On my first day, I felt like an alien who had just descended upon a foreign planet. I was a complete stranger to their language and culture. Despite having some experience with the language, I was deaf to the lectures of my teachers, mute to the conversations with fellow students, and chained by my lack of vocabulary. But I wasn’t deterred, I chose to face my problems heads on.
From learning grammar on Youtube to conquering my shyness through discussion with my peers, I learned to embrace the language and eventually fell in love with it. I also picked up a new hobby as I buried myself in the treacherous adventures of Percy Jackson from The Lightning Thief and the dauntless lifestyle of Tris from Divergent. These novels not only improved my reading skills, but they also taught me that nothing is impossible as long as I persevere and dare to dream it. In no time, school became a sanctuary to me, where I could nurture my inquisitive mind and be like Percy Jackson and Tris — and make the impossible seem possible.
However, the one thing that truly allowed for this to happen was the realization of my parents’ sacrifices. Coming to America was hard for me, but it was even harder for my parents, who had to leave their families, relatives, and luxurious lives behind to become ordinary workers. Even more remarkably, through their countless hours of hard labor, never have I heard them complain once, nor have they failed to encourage me to study every day. They remained strong and worked hard every day to ensure that my siblings and I would have a chance to be successful in the future.
As humans, we often become too complacent with our comfort level and familiarity, and likewise, we will never reach our maximum potential. Overcoming the hardships of the move has taught me an important lesson to always challenge myself in the face of adversity — shaping me into the person I am today. More importantly, the realization of my parents’ sacrifices has become the main source of motivation for all my dreams and aspirations. My family arrived in America carrying little but dreams. My parents sacrificed the stability of their old life, and they took up the challenge of starting a new life in America. I have been fortunate to always carry their love with me, and I strive to repay their hard work by continuing their dreams of success.
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