“Holi!” I shouted to my teammates during the Quiz Bowl. Of course I knew the answer to: “What is India’s festival of color?” With my father working overseas, I’d bounced back and forth between cities of India and my birthplace of Beijing, China, more times than I could count. Planes were almost as familiar to me as cars, and I could paper my walls with boarding passes! Eventually in fourth grade, I joined an international school in Mumbai, where I gained a multicultural background I’ll cherish forever.
When I arrived in my new diverse community, I was surrounded by students representing over fifty nations. While I learned about my classmates, I also learned about their cultures. It was eye-opening. Immersed in such a wide spectrum of people and places, I learned there was no default method of behaving or thinking; we were all encouraged to express our own perspectives. But I never lost my Chinese identity under the dazzle of so many different cultures—I merely added to it.
My Korean badminton teammate introduced me to K-POP. He told me stories about his childhood in Seoul, and about Korea’s strict custom that younger individuals must address their elders with a respectful title, even if they’re only one year apart. My Argentinian friend shared her empanadas with me and told me how she had to learn not to keep kissing everyone! It was the way people lived in her city of Buenos Aires. This was especially interesting to me because in China, physical affection is definitely not the norm. In fact, I had a hard time even imagining kissing people and getting kissed all the time!
My new friends were equally interested to learn about my country, asking me about everything from traditional foods to why our Lunar New Year is a different date on the traditional Chinese calendar than on the International calendar. Most of them also believed that China was monoethnic, and were shocked to learn that fifty-six other ethnicities live there.
I was sad to leave my international school, but when I came to America, I began another exciting journey. My multicultural identity helped me adjust straightaway. I never suffered culture shock or homesickness. During my time here, I’ve had many opportunities to display my growth and learning. Being multicultural is about more than just speaking many languages or living in many countries; it’s about coexisting with diverse viewpoints. I’ve learned to view the world critically and neutrally, and to remain open-minded—or at least empathetic and respectful—to all perspectives, even those I find very different from my own.
As I am about to leave RHP, I find myself filled lately with the same mixed feelings I used to have on the plane between China and India—sorrow at leaving one home combined with eagerness to reach my new destination. I have never stopped reflecting on my journey, though. I am lucky. I am proud. I am confident. I want to dive into the world and see what more it has to offer.