What Moving 9,184km Away at Age 16 Taught Me
When I got my offer for a place at Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong at age 16, I was thrilled and absolutely sure that I wanted to accept the offer. As many of you guys know, I did in fact accept the offer and flew off to Hong Kong in September 2016. I spent two years at LPC and graduated with a Harvard Book Award in May 2018. My time in Hong Kong was incredible and I would definitely make the same decision again.
But I would be lying if I told you that it was always easy. That I didn't miss my family. That I didn't lose friends. That I didn't feel lost at times. I do not think that it is ever easy to move out for the first time, but it is especially hard when you are moving to another continent and will be in a completely different time zone. I know that my mother was worried and scared to send her daughter around the world to a school she had never seen in person, but I am so grateful that she nonetheless whole-heartedly supported me.
In the months leading up to my flight to Hong Kong, I spent a lot of time with my friends and that is something I do not regret. This is my advice to anyone who is about to move away: Spend time with your friends at home before you go. Because the sad truth is that you will probably lose some of them. But you will also make new friends. Not all friendships survive the test of distance and that is okay. But you want to have some good memories to keep from the friendships that do not make it.
I never doubted my decision to accept UWC's offer of admission except for one time. It was the day of my flight. The day the consequences of my decision started to manifest. I was oddly calm in the months leading up to leaving, but when it came to actually leaving, I was an emotional mess. Saying goodbye is never pretty and it is not picture-perfect. It is rare and real and I think that this is reflected in these snapshots my aunt took when we were at the airport:
It hurts to leave the ones you love behind. Because their lives will move on without you. They will laugh, cry and learn and you will not be there to see it. Your cousins will grow up, your friends will get their hearts broken and fall in love again, and you will not be there for any of it. Yes, Skype exists and you can always send a text. But anyone who tells you it is the same as being there is lying.
And after a few months, you will realise that you will have lost touch with some and that the contact with the others has gotten less. That is normal and it would also not be fair to expect those you left not to move on. I occasionally meet people I lost touch with after moving at events and it is always great to see them, but it will never be the same again.
And then there are the few I did not lose touch with. They are the ones who matter. The ones who will always have my back - no matter if I'm right next to them or in a different time zone on a different continent. Being away has taught me so much, but one of the most important lessons was to value the ones who are still there when you come back.
I know that many applicants to UWC have recently found out that their application was successful and I would like to congratulate you on this. Some of you may be afraid of losing fiends - I would recommend not being afraid of it. You will learn who your real friends are and it will make you love them even more. Embrace it. And, most importantly, you got this - even when you doubt your decision at times and cry in airplanes. You are allowed to have your emotional moments.
Lots of Love,