New friends, not new characters

Sahil Modi, Executive News Editor

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Executive News Editor Sahil Modi gets lost in the subtleties of the Chinese language during a staged vocabulary presentation. Although his pronunciation has improved since freshman year, he values the friends made more than the words learned. Photo by Richard Chu

Ni hao, jintian wo xiang shuo shuo gan’en jie. Or, was it sheng dan. No no, it’s definitely gan’en jie. I think…

As I ran through my script for my Chinese presentation on the topic of Thanksgiving, I couldn’t memorize the characters, sentence structure or even the pronunciation of the words. No not now, I angrily thought to myself. I had this all memorized and now I don’t even know how to say Thanksgiving! I’m presenting next!

“Mo Di Xi,” my Chinese teacher called out, “You’re up!” I gave my script a final glance and slowly walked up to the front of the class feeling nauseated.   

I’m going to make a fool of myself, I thought. What I failed to realize is that it didn’t really matter. All I had to do was embrace this uncomfortable experience.

Back then, I was a freshman fearful of what my next four years in Academy would be like. On my first day, I walked into a group of unfamiliar faces and felt out of place. So I sat in the back of classroom and listened carefully to what everybody else had to say, but didn’t have the guts to voice my thoughts.

After the first two weeks in the Academy, I had the same close-minded attitude. However, one of my classmates was on my soccer team, and I started to develop a closer relationship with him. He knew many people in the Academy and introduced me to them. So, I decided to give it a go. I began to make friends and approached my peers with an open mind.

As I grew more comfortable with the students in Academy, I realized that we all have unique stories to tell, and my unwillingness to embrace this community was holding me back. For example, one of my friends told me about his experience moving from Mexico and the crazy, intense soccer games he used to watch.

When I finally began to appreciate the Academy, I was able to develop relationships that could form into lifelong friends. They encourage me to pursue my interests, and this support system has allowed me to venture out of my comfort zone. 

Although I felt like I didn’t belong at first, I now know that I do. Sure, I still have my friends from soccer and activities I am involved in outside of the Academy, but it’s nice to have a group of people that’s always there for me and I can be myself around.

On the day I gave that Chinese presentation, I forgot sentences and mispronounced a few words, and I thought everyone was internally making fun of me. The funny thing is I gave the same presentation this year, and I think I presented on Christmas. But hey, I guess how my presentation went didn’t really matter.

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New friends, not new characters