By Vanilla Sherry
I packed my suitcases, arrived at the airport, waved to my parents and then went to the security check. Shining under the beautiful warm 2 pm sunlight, the large airplane stood on the ground peacefully. I knew it was time to leave.
I had a hard time making decisions about where to attend school: China or USA? I would have a lot of advantages if I stayed in China. I know my culture better than my peers; I could always teach my friends knowledge about Chinese celebrities and their masterpieces, and then enjoy my friends’ admiration with pride. I am good at writing, which helps me gain attention and thus gives me a lot of confidence in student activities. A lot of things would have been good if I stayed.
But things are also so SETTLED.
White clouds passed and blue sky changed into a dark one with stars like diamonds. The plane flew across the Pacific Ocean. I knew I was about to step into a new land, new country, new experience. I heard a voice shouting loudly in my mind: going outside and learning more are what I always dreamed of.
Step, step, step. I stepped down the stairs, leaving the huge plane behind me — step, step, step, I stepped into Baptist College Church (BCM), an organization that holds a lot of activities for international students during international orientation every semester at UGA. But now there were no familiar faces, no Chinese people, and no even Asian people! I was surprised and didn’t know what to do. Luckily, a man noticed me and shook hands with me: “Welcome! First time at BCM?”
It was the fourteenth day since I came to America. I was still new to the US, surrounded by the big, unfamiliar university. Also, it was my first time taking part in student organization.
“Yes,” I answered with smile, feeling relieved that someone could guide me. “I received a flyer from you about today’s activity…” I said shyly.
“Okay! Welcome! Please go straight and get some food if you like!” He guided me to the table and introduced me to another young girl, pointing to me and saying, “She’s new!” That girl smiled at me and then led me to a big table that was surrounded by several girls.
“Hi girls! This is Vanilla! She’s a freshman and this her first time at BCM!”
I was soon surrounded by girls. We introduced ourselves to each other and talked about many things like majors, hobbies and hometowns. “We are about to play Frisbee. Would you like to join us?” Krisi, a slender girl with blonde hair said to me.
“Yes! I’d love to…but what is Frisbee?” I said with embarrassment.
“Oh, people are divided into two teams and they throw plate to each other. Let’s go. Some guys are playing outside and I will show you how to play!” She smiled and we walked to the field in front of Special Collections Library.
It was my first time playing Frisbee; it was my first time sitting on the warm ground and taking off my shoes, running and jumping on the field. Due to cultural differences, it is impolite to take off shoes in public in China. When my feet touched the soft grass, I almost wanted to shout: “It’s so lovely!”
“Yes, it’s lovely to meet someone who shares the same opinions but grows up in different culture.”
It had been a month and a half after I came to USA. The sky turned dark blue with warm wind dancing around my shoulders. Regan was beside me and we smiled to each other.
“How do you say that saying in Chinese? The one you just said,” she said.
“冥冥之中自有天定, which means everything is already arranged by God. Like our meeting –good friends will always meet each other even if we are brought up by different culture.” I said.
Regan and I met through BCM, and we soon found we share a lot of common interests. We have the same attitudes towards life, helping others, and love relationships. We talked about our difficulties in daily life and went to play together. She invited me to my first tailgating event. So many people, young and old, men and women, red and black — but I knew nothing. Regan was always there and introduced everything and everyone she knew to me. So warm — I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign country. I just changed another language to talk to people.
Isn’t that amazing? Different color, but same soul. No matter what culture we come from, we are human at nature. The experience at BCM encouraged me to take part in more activities in campus. Red & Black, NewSource and also Infusion Magazine! I hesitated at first because I didn’t know if I could write in English as well as I did in Chinese. But the core of writing should be the same in all languages, just as the core of friendship will never depend on language and culture. “Vanilla, just do it!” All my new American friends encouraged me.
Working for these three has helped me meet more friends. I met Bonnie in NewSource and talked and talked for several hours! We did share many things in common: our rebellion against fathers in childhood, our curiosity to understand unknown things and our fascination with love stories. Bonnie and other new friends then introduced me to other new activities: Ballroom Dance club, HOPE, Dance Marathon, student-made film clubs, etc. Life expanded in front of me, and I found the same interests and concerns in people from a different culture.
Experiencing all these things, I feel clearer about an idea: we share more similarities than differences. Even though we grow up in different cultures, we are all humans in nature. We all will be happy or upset for a class; we all will be nervous before a test or a public speech; we all have conflicts and happy memories with parents and siblings; we all like making friends and finding our common interests!
Different color, same soul. Many people now only attach importance to the differences, but they ignore that we are all the same in giving love and getting love. I am grateful that I learned it early in my life. I’ve begun to find the true meaning of studying abroad: recognizing similarities in human nature.
Now I’m writing with the warm beautiful 2pm sunlight shining on my hair, with the lovely smell of grass and flowers around me. The sky above my head is as blue as the day I left my home country, but the girl appreciating the sight is more mature now.