Tony Wang is a senior at Kennedy High School in La Palma who plans to study engineering after graduation. The story of his arrival in the United States was prepared by Abby Fung, a junior at Kennedy. On July 11, 1990, I arrived by plane in Los Angeles from my birthplace of Kaohsiung, in Taiwan. Although it was my parents who wanted me to move here for educational purposes, they chose to stay behind in Taiwan. I had heard that there was less homework, easier tests and no school uniforms in America, but more importantly, I had heard that everyone could go to college.
It was decided that I would live with my grandparents in Monterey Park. Years of English class finally paid off, as I found out that I could speak the bare essentials. My fears were partially allayed, too, by the multitude of Chinese people and Chinese restaurants which abounded in Monterey Park.
On the first day of school, I didn't have the chance to make friends during my first four periods, but when lunchtime came around, I heard all of these people speaking in my native tongue, Mandarin Chinese, and I introduced myself as a newly arrived immigrant. These people who welcomed me and asked me to join them became my first American friends.
It was truly scary those first few months to come to a new environment and want to get along with everyone, but yet to know no one. I was like a newborn baby because I had to learn new ways and customs and make new friends.
I was also lonely and frustrated during that first year. I was getting a B in my regular World History class when I got kicked out of it because they found out that I was still in ESL (English as a Second Language). I remember that I cried endlessly and thought it to be so unfair. To make matters worse, my cousins made fun of me because I didn't speak fluent English like them. I mean, I thought your relatives were supposed to help you fit in, not make you feel worse . . . .
It didn't help that I missed my parents, too. It took me about half a year to become adjusted to the idea of being on my own, but now I'm really glad. In Taiwan, my life basically revolved around school and family, school and family. My parents always took care of everything, and I didn't have to be responsible for anything. But now, I feel really independent, to know that I can take care of myself, with a little help from friends and relatives.
My parents still come to visit me sometimes, during summer vacation, Christmas holidays or Chinese New Year. They always give me money to buy lunch, clothes or other necessities. Sometimes they also bring me silly presents like pens, pencils and clothes, which I really don't like, but wear just because they remind me of my mom. Our relationship is somewhat strained because we see each other so infrequently, so our conversations are really generic, like "How's school?" "What's your GPA?" or "You've really grown."
In my sophomore year, I moved to Buena Park to live with my aunt and uncle because my parents decided that it was too much trouble for my elderly grandparents to raise a teen-ager. This was when I started attending John F. Kennedy High School in La Palma and began taking regular classes, the first of them being a regular English class. I found it sort of easy to make friends because of my outgoing personality and my willingness to make the first move.
Right now, I feel like a part of my school and my community. I do regular things like study, play sports or hang out with my friends, and a typical weekend consists of attending church in Monterey Park and then going and cleaning my grandparents' house afterward. I really enjoy going to church every week, not just because I'm a singer in the church choir, but also because of all the friendship and guidance I've received from everyone there.
This is not to say that I've lost touch with my Chinese heritage. I still send my old classmates in Taiwan a Christmas card every year and listen to Chinese cassettes for enjoyment in my spare time. I feel that I have the responsibility to help new immigrants fit in, so right now I'm tutoring three people in math and biology.
When I compare Taiwanese schools and American schools, I think of the former's rigorous regulations and the latter's permissiveness and tolerance. In Taiwan, I was considered a problem child because I would constantly ask questions when we were supposed to be taking notes. But in America, you can talk and ask questions all the time, and I really like this.
Today, I feel like everything has passed by so fast. It took me a while to feel accepted and accustomed to America, but now, I wouldn't go back for anything. I really like the fresh air and the educational system of Southern California, and I feel right at home here.