Amber Chiang from Taiwan is currently studying at St Giles New York City. Here she tells of her experiences in The City That Never Sleeps…
I have never thought I could stay here for such a long time. Before coming here, I didn’t want to explore this world, I’m from Taiwan, my major was Chinese, my world was really small, I didn’t want to know more people, I liked my world in Taiwan, I loved Chinese, I was enjoying everything in my former life; furthermore, I thought I couldn’t do more in my life, I had a dream, but I persuaded myself that a dream is the most intoxicated illusion in my childhood, I am an adult, I should be rational and practical, at least I heard that from every adult.
When I came to New York at first, the first problem was the subway. In Chinese, we have an expression that says ‘the subway station is like a tiger’s mouth’, especially during the night – At that time the subway station was like an unknown monster’s stomach to me: I could go in, but I might be digested by it! I know it sounds ignorant, but I was in a panic, I went everywhere on foot.
Ten days later, I started to go to school. I remember the first day when I went to school, I was too nervous to be late or lost, so I went there at 7 o’clock, and actually, the orientation for freshmen would start at 9! It goes without saying, I walked there.
My first impression of St Giles was “Wow, everyone speaks English!”. Everything became so real, I realized that I really had to place myself in the big city where all around me were English speakers; however, the first day I was too shy to speak English. For 23 years my life had been filled with Chinese; how awkward for me to speak English, and how annoying that everyone around me spoke English perfectly. However, I also never forgot how much teachers try hard to make us throw away our inferiority complex and encourage us to speak as much as possible, everyday in class, we have different activities to match up with grammar or vocabulary. Sometimes we have field trips, sometimes we have presentations, everyday I try to express my feelings a lot, try to be corrected, also correct myself. I try to join different courses like TOEFL or Cambridge, I try to make mistakes. I try to try.
Gradually, life became easier; I stopped walking home, even if it was a really healthy habit. After much effort, I started to have friends. Until now, many new students come every week, we go to many places together, we walk together, we study together, we travel around together, we join school activities together, we go on field trips with teachers together, we discuss different topics whether in the class or out of class together, we get through homesickness together, we learn each other’s languages and cultures together. Of course, sometimes, we skip lessons together! Meanwhile, we pick up our dreams together, we are getting mature together, we become us together.
I have seen how magnificent the Metropolitan Museum is, how fancy and dreamlike the Fifth Avenue is, how significant the Statue of Liberty is to Americans, how picturesque the night view is in New Jersey and the Brooklyn Bridge, how many memorable stories in the 911 Memorial, how pleasant it is in Central Park. During my vacation, I have been to Boston, Washington DC, and some cities near New York, but I still have so many places I haven’t been yet, whether in New York or not.
Of course, even if I have been here six months now, sometimes, I still find it hard, for example, we have new students every week and at the same time, every week, someone leaves us. It’s really hard to say goodbye; we don’t really stay together for a long time, but after overcoming many language, culture and costume obstacles, it’s really tough to accept that you might not to see each other again. Fortunately, nowadays, communication is really developed and convenient. I have seen so many friends who visited others countries after they graduated from school.
In six months, eventually, I’m going back to Taiwan. My New York experience is already halfway through. I don’t know how much I will miss this city; I’m still in love with my hometown, but life is too short. I want to know how much I can do for myself, for my country. I will keep trying, keep going, and keep chasing my dream.