On Coming Home Again
After 13 hours of flight across the Pacific Ocean, I was home.
I can still remember how my heart pounded with joy and impatience when the plane slowly landed at Hong Kong International Airport. I had returned from my lone educational pilgrimage to a country thousands of miles away, and finally, I was about to be reunited with my family, who I’d never been apart from before.
Every night when I closed my eyes in my bed, I could hardly sleep; instead, I thought of them. I wondered how much they had changed. Would they recognize me after a whole year away? Would they still look at me like they did before I left for America? Would they understand the quietness that followed me around during my struggles and failures in the foreign place? I didn’t know.
I originally left because my parents thought that I would have more educational opportunities in the U.S. In Hong Kong, your standardized test score at the end of your senior year determines your eligibility to get into college. It is pretty scary because you basically only have one chance. Even if you’re a great student with good grades, colleges might shut the door in your face just because you mess up on one test.
The challenges I’ve faced in America are more on the mental side, like homesickness. I’ve spent many nights crying and trying to become used to leaving my parents and friends in Hong Kong. I know it’s not a permanent thing—but it’s lonely in a foreign place with minimal support. A new language is another challenge. Even though I'd been learning English in my Hong Kong school, I didn’t speak it that much. In fact, many English teachers speak Chinese during class, and as a result, I lack the chance to practice my English.
I was self-conscious because I thought I didn’t have a decent accent; sometimes I couldn’t express myself fully in English. Nevertheless, I practiced by reading my textbooks out loud, and I can now communicate pretty fluently with only a little accent.
But while leaving home is scary, it’s also rewarding. My family and I have a much stronger bond now, and I've learned to cherish that. I’ve expanded my horizons and learned amazing things along the way: new friends of all races, adaptability, faith, mastery of another language, and experiences outside my comfort zone.
I walked out of the arrival hall and saw my parents and little brother immediately. They were holding a large sign that said “Welcome Back Candice.” Before I could say anything, I burst into tears. I had been so used to loneliness that I did not realize how empty I had felt. I ran and embraced my mother so tightly that I couldn’t breathe.
My dad had more white hair but his body still appeared as strong as before. He was still wearing his favorite band t-shirt that he had kept for 10 years. I gave him a quick hug before I turned to my brother. He was no longer the timid boy who would hide behind my back because he was too shy to say hi to a neighbor. He possessed the youthfulness that I had lost when I was searching for my identity in a new country.
I stayed home for two months before I left for a new school year. Once again, I stood in the middle of an airport, hugging my family to steal the last bit of warmth before spending another year away from them. I walked toward the departure gate without looking back, even though my family was calling my name. I knew that if I turned around, I would not have the courage to leave. Each step I took, more tears slid down my cheeks. Leaving home is always hard. But I wiped my tears. Because every departure means that I will return. Maybe not tomorrow, but someday.
By Candice Lee, 16