Being an International Student 留学之路

Haokun from China shares his struggles as an international student, but all the hard work does pay off!

Being an international student is a long journey, but for me, just getting here was a big challenge.  I am from China, where school, studying, and grades are the only parts of a kid’s life.  I was one of few kids who got all “F”s in school.  I could not memorize anything, and studying was too boring for me.  My parents were very stressed every day especially because in China, I was considered such a bad and shameful son.  Even though my classmates studied English since they were young, of course, I failed at that too.  Being lazy and hating school became who I was.  I told my parents I didn’t want to go to college, and I wanted to get a job that didn’t require a college diploma.  However, that plan failed.  All the companies asked for diploma and English skills.  As a result, I sat around my house for three years after high school, and did nothing.

Eventually, I decided to study in America. But it wasn’t so easy.  I went to an agency to help me study in America, but there were too many things I had to complete.  My English level was very low, so I had to study in a language school. After I finish that, I could have qualification to study at Santa Monica College for two years.  They also told me that I had to get very good grades because if I don’t I may not be accepted to a university for transfer.  I was so shocked.  Even after I study for years at SMC, I may not get accepted to a university.  It was too hard. My goal was too far away.  I kept asking myself what I should do. I felt like I have lost my way.

After a lot of thinking, I came to the U.S. and started my brand new life in a foreign country and different culture.  I was so excited in the first few weeks, but things changed very quickly.  As I tried to live my life here, I realized how empty my English skill was.  My world was broken. I couldn’t understand anything.  I felt blind, deaf, and mute.   I couldn’t order coffee from Starbucks, and waiters at restaurants couldn’t understand me.  I even ordered coffee that I didn’t like because I couldn’t order my favorite drink.  I couldn’t ask for directions when I was lost, and I felt hopeless, stressed, and nervous all the time.  Then, I began to see the difference between my dream and fact.  I cried a lot.

Fortunately, I met my roommate who is a good English speaker from China.  I told him about my situation and asked for help.  I was surprised when he told me he used to have the same problems that I had when he first came to the United States.  He also told me that he could help me get through it.  I was so thankful.  I spent a lot of time with him, and he took me everywhere. He took me to shopping malls, and taught me a lot of new vocabulary.  He taught me what signs meant, and asked me to talk to people whenever possible.  He helped me to grow.

After half a year, I finally can talk to my classmates, and I can go shopping on my own.  I finally graduated from my language school and got my offer letter from Santa Monica College.  One day, I was sitting under the sun and was thinking about everything.  I felt I have become a real student of this country.  I have changed, grown up, and become progressive.  I changed myself from a spoiled child to a normal student.  I keep falling down and hitting the ground over and over, but I will not give up and yield.  I always get up when I fall down, and I always encourage myself because I am not the guy who was sitting on the couch for three years.  I am proud that I have become an official international student, and I will keep learning as much as I can.


Haokun Li

Home Country: China

Santa Monica College






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