As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “the greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions”. In my case, I suffered by mindlessly adopting the negative opinions of others as my own. Since I grew up in Nepal, I was keenly aware that I was different from most of my American peers. It was not difficult to see the many ways I was “abnormal”. It bothered me that I looked nothing like them, as I was one of the few South Asian kids in my class. The one factor that alienated me from my peers the most was the language barrier.Like many others, my parents came to the United States because they believed it was the land of opportunity, success, and freedom. I was only 12 years old when my family and I left Nepal.
Nepali was the mother language of both my parents and naturally, the first language I learned. Since I did not start to learn English until later in my life, I was unable to speak it fluently. As a result, I was teased every time I stuttered or stumbled over my words. Rather than questioning the people around me, my childish mind started to believe what others were saying. Determined to fit in, I made every effort I could at the time to get better at English.
I only spoke in English to my classmates, parents, and friends, even taking on the role of my mother’s unofficial translator. It was often stressful, as a shy child, having to explain what my mother meant to others. Although I loathed it at the time, I realized I helped prevent many possible misunderstandings between my mom and the people around her as I grew up. The experience helped me understand how important it was to be articulate when I communicated with others. Although I achieved my goal of speaking English “like an American,” it came at a cost. I didn’t realize that I was slowly forgetting Nepali, which made me feel as I was a lost part of my identity. Now when I attempt to speak Nepalese to my relatives and others of the same nationality, they would tease and ridicule me for not being able to speak my own language that well. Instead of embracing the things that made me unique, I avoided them.
This is when I realized the importance of my heritage. It may be from different from my other classmates but it’s part of who I am and I should respect it. On the incredible journey I tried to have to really find out who I really was and what my culture tried to offer me, I also became aware of other cultures, which helped me to become more open-minded and considerate towards others. Throughout my cultural transition, I’ve learned that I should be blessed to have had the advantage of living in and understanding two vastly different cultures. I’m positive that that this diverse perspective will not only help me adapt to the challenges in my college life, but it will also bring an element of difference and freshness to my future college friendships.