Try blending in with the Southern California elite fresh off the boat from Korea. Adjusting to America was tough and if I were to survive here, I’d first have to find a way to belong. Middle school had some minor advantages: students were not as competitive, I was fine wearing the same clothes everyday and everyone knew each other. Then, it came time to attend Harvard-Westlake, a unique campus culture that encourages independence. There was no common lunch period, study hall or weekly schedule. Naturally, people with similar interests bonded, and I had to actively search for a place to belong.
The first new thing that I tried was joining the freshman field hockey team. With this decision, I encountered a slew of academic challenges because of the commitment that came with being on the team. Some days, I missed half of my classes, and my time management was a disaster. I sucked at field hockey and blending into this pre-existing tightly knit group. None of this helped my confidence at all, but I stuck with it. By staying on the team, I learned to expect and embrace challenges and face them at my own pace.
After a year, as I scrapped my way onto JV, rigid scheduling norms almost forced me to quit. But I managed to find a way to stay on the team, and my coach bumped me up to Varsity. This transition taught me that after the darkest nights come the brightest mornings.
After four years of field hockey, our team walked away with the California state championship. Among all the other members of the Varsity team, I was one of the last seniors to join, and therefore, one of the worst. However, I believe my personal growth was just as important as the number on the scoreboard. I learned to focus on the things that my teammates did for me, instead of all the struggles and conflicts I faced. So in college, whenever I encounter a challenge, I will not immediately jump to a conclusion that the environment around me sucks, because I realized that the world changes with the way you think about it.