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My Experience at HW After Moving from Abroad

By Alice ’21

I moved to the US from China in 2017. Before 9th grade, I grew up in Beijing and received a regular public school education. Transferring from an all Chinese environment to a complete English-speaking environment was indeed not easy but my English was good enough for me to understand everything around me and the class content.

Even though I understood everything, there were still many cultural aspects that I was unfamiliar with. For example, the way students socialize was very different and new to me. In China, each grade is divided into multiple classes and you spend the entire primary school and middle school time with that same group of 40 people. You automatically start to form close friendships with everyone when you are studying and sitting next to the same people for even 2 weeks, so by graduation, everyone is very close to each other. Here, making friends is a little bit more difficult since everyone has classes with a completely different group of people for each subject. You get a chance to know everyone but forming close bonds happens at a different pace than I was used to. It felt like the only way to socialize was by initiating conversations out of the blue at random places. For me, it was really awkward and rough since my knowledge of current pop culture and American culture was very limited and I simply did not know what to talk about.

There were also other aspects of the American society and education system that I was unfamiliar with. Over time, I got used to everything thanks to the HW faculty and students. Everyone is incredibly nice and is willing to help when they can. I remember history was a particularly difficult subject for me but a classmate was so kind and offered to be my study partner. It helped me feel more confident in my abilities in history. Moreover, the teachers are also extremely helpful and friendly and want nothing but to see us thrive in the class. I remember in math class, I was still forgetting the English translation of many math terms and after telling my teacher, he helped me to compile a sheet of math terms that I needed to know and it was really helpful. The deans also contributed a lot to my adjustment to the school. Not only did they give me necessary advice on how to plan my courses and extracurriculars, but they are also extremely welcoming. Sometimes when I had a bad day, I would just go into their office. Sometimes a chat with my dean is all I need to help feel better.

Harvard-Westlake wants to see its student thrive and therefore, I believe one of the best ways to adapt to the school is to be proactive and open to new things. If you reach out to any teacher or faculty when you are troubled, they will do their best to help you. One of the hardest thresholds to cross is the courage to ask for help, but HW is full of kind faculty, staff, and students that are willing to help. All you need to do is ask. Also, being open to new cultures and traditions also helps a lot when trying to learn a new environment. A lot of activities and traditions I love right now would not have come into my life had I not stepped out of my comfort zone in the first place. HW is a great place with many great resources at our fingertips. The only thing you have to do is reach for them.

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Tags: , Last modified: December 3, 2020