Luke Wu inspired to chase career as actuary or architectural designer
Senior Zeliang (Luke) Wu is an international student at Fresno Christian Schools, one of many participants in the AmeriStudent program. AmeriStudent LLC. works with incoming international students to secure a safe homestay and offer support through cultural and educational integration.
“We only have seven days for Chinese New Year holiday,” my Chinese teacher told us during my ninth grade year. Most schools offer one month for the holiday, but my school required us to go back earlier to study, as I attended one of China’s top three junior high schools.
During the same day, my dad came to me and said my uncle’s son traveled to America to attend college. He encouraged me to finish high school in America, so I agreed.
After six months of preparation, I arrived in Fresno with almost no English knowledge except for a few simple words like “hello”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “hungry”. I wish I would have studied English harder. After arriving in San Francisco at the border protection, the officer asked me, “What is the purpose for your visit?”
I stared at the officer and immediately was afraid. I began to sweat and shake as I stumbled for words. I could not tell him in English that I was going to high school in Fresno. The next few seconds were the scariest moments in my life; the pause seemed to last forever.
Lucky for me, the agent called for another Asian to interpret for me. Fresno became my new home.
My hometown Xi’an is in the middle part of the Shanxi province in central China. The city has a deep background of history, including claiming the title of the capital for 13 dynasties. Xi’an spans the most glorious time period of China and is similar in size to Beijing and Shanghai.
Growing up and studying in Xi’an gave me many opportunities to prepare me for a higher education. I spent my junior and primary years in public school, focusing on math during those nine years, especially enjoying geometry and mathematics.
This is also one of the reasons I study abroad. While in China, I was afraid of failing the test for entering high school because of the competition. My parents would be really upset if I failed the test. I would not be allowed to go to a good high school if I did not pass the test and it would be difficult for me to get high-paid jobs. So I agreed without hesitation when my dad asked me if I wanted to go abroad.
I wanted to escape and did not want to face the difficulty and pressure to succeed in Chinese schools. My junior high program was supposed to prepare me for one of the best high schools in China.
After already spending years on my own, I was prepared for this challenge.
As my parents are too busy with their business careers to take care of me, I grew up with my grandparents. They always gave me a lot of free time to do whatever I wanted to do, so I enjoyed living with them.
My parents are like all the traditional Chinese parents: they want to offer their children a good life and a good education. However, they also gave me a lot of pressure to do well in school. They just do not realize the struggles.
When I was in China, the competition there was too crazy for me in my junior high. The pressure to be successful is beyond my ability. My primary school is also a good school but the teachers sometimes use violence to force students to study harder in order to get better grades. So as a result, I did not have the confidence to keep studying in China at one of the best high schools.
While the move from China to America helped resolve some of my academic struggles, new issues arose as I began to experience a culture shock.
The first problem I needed to solve in America was trying to accept the food. The foods we eat in China is cooked with a lot of seasoning. But the food I eat in America are fresh vegetables with some kind of sauce and often are uncooked. I know it is really healthy, but I just could not accept it at first. I lost about 40 pounds during the first four months of American living.
Growing up in a Buddhist society, my parents and grandparents all follow the culture of Buddha. So I grew up with a totally different religious background compared to students I attend school with at Fresno Christian.
For instance, we do not need to pray before eating in China. In addition, we think everything we are doing is preparing for a better next life. We believe our soul will be reborn after we die.
Our next life happiness is dependent on how good we are and how much we help others. This will bring us a better life and give our family a safe life. So I am learning to respect an entirely different religious way of life without knowing anything about it.
I am challenging myself to learn more English for speaking and writing. There are many differences between the English and Chinese languages. The simplest is capitalization. We never use capitalization on words so I always forgot to capitalize words like country names. I struggled with this on top of learning vocabulary and sentence structure.
One bonus for me in studying in American is that I celebrate Chinese New Year for one month with my family, while my friends in China went back to school three weeks earlier. They are jealous of me. While the Christmas or winter break is three weeks in America, it is similar to the one month in China for most of the schools there.
Chinese New Year is about family and hope. It is a traditional month holiday and the time for all family members to get back and stay together. And it can bring us good luck. It is hard for me to understand why family celebration is so short in the United States.
So my challenges continue. My Chinese accent is still strong and most people have trouble understanding my English. I am challenging myself to improve my English and American accent to prepare to attend university in the U.S. next fall. I plan on a career as an actuary or in architectural design.
In order for me to be an architect, my resolve is to be a better English student and to improve my mathematics, geometry and analytical skills.
To learn more about the foreign exchange students at Fresno Christian, read Campus students celebrate Chinese New Year, Feb. 5. Interested parents, students or agents can also contact Brooke Stobbe, the AmeriStudent International Program Coordinator via email.
For another column, read COLUMN: Self-empowerment through embracing, overcoming difficult situations. For another article, read Spotlight Productions: Preparation begins for Newsies musical.
Luke Wu can be reached via email.
The slideshow below includes images from Luke Wu’s experience in China and Fresno Christian.
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