Posted on July 22, 2016
Mr Fry’s Assembly with all secondary students on Friday 15 July was centred on the theme of ‘Our Diverse World’. This theme will be a repeated focus addressed by our Student Leaders and various guest speakers across Term 3 as we focus on respect and compassion for others both within the Tintern community and in the wider Australian and World communities. A highlight of this Assembly was the speech given by one of our International Student Leaders, Bill Chen of Year 12. Bill addressed all Years 7 to 12 students and secondary teaching staff on his experiences as a student coming to Australia from China to commence Year 10 at Tintern just over 2 ½ years ago. He had all of the audience imagining how hard it would be for any of us finding ourselves in a different culture with very limited experience of the language that everyone else is using around us; a wonderful real life example of the value of respecting diversity and showing respect to those around us. A copy of Bill’s heartfelt speech is below.
To be honest, when I was told to have this speech in front of you all, I was terrified. I have never had any speech in front of this many people, not to mention in English. But then I thought, well… it’s a great opportunity to show you all what it’s like to be an international student. So here I am.
As most of us know, being a high school student is never easy, but being an international high school student can be even more challenging. It took me a great deal of embarrassing situations to help myself learn the hard way of how things work here in Australia. Even after knowing that moving to another country where I don’t speak their language is daunting. I was still determined to move to this unknown continent. Because I knew I would get a better education and a better future in Australia. However, it was not an easy journey. I had never encountered any other cultures before. The Australian society has a lot of differences with Chinese society. For example, I have to say a lot of please and thank you to the people around me here, in my cultural, though it is very polite to do so, people usually don’t say this much polite language. After using these language became a habit of mine, I started doing so in Chinese. Well…. guess what happened the first year I went back to China. Yes, I became the politest person in the town. Every friend who talked to me would give me this look like saying is that still the Bill I knew.
It was not too challenging to adjust to the new culture, it was very hard for me to learn the new language, though. As you see that English is not my first language. And I can’t tell you how many embarrassing situations have happened to me, just too many. So I stopped counting a long time ago. When writing this speech I was immediately reminded of this cringe-worthy story that happened to me in my first year at Tintern. I was in my geography class, I was asked to read a passage from the textbook. It was about boundaries, sea, barriers, and this word, “choked”, suddenly popped out, and I was like what is this word I’d never seen before. And the silly person that I was then, decided to pronounce it as “cooked”. The class immediately bursts out of laughter and I just wanted to hide under a rock.
Some of you might think that it isn’t a big deal. But it was for me. It wasn’t just about mispronouncing one or two words, it was about not being able to express what I wanted to say. I had a lot of ideas and thoughts that I wanted to share but I didn’t know how to say them and it came out either oversimplified or just didn’t make sense at all. When I was having a discussion with some of my friends, I was not confident enough to propose a solution even if I thought it might be the best option, just because I was afraid that I would look stupid. And this problem stayed with me for quite a while, it took me one year to finally realize that it’s okay to make mistakes here and there. Cause then I can learn from my mistakes. As a saying says: If you worried about falling off a bike then you will never get on in the first place. I started to push myself beyond my comfort zone, and of course it wasn’t easy. But every time I succeeded to talk in front of the class or to express my ideas, there was a sense of accomplishment as if I won a prize. Even if I made any mistakes, I was already satisfied just by being brave enough to deliver my thoughts to people. Slowly but steadily, I definitely gained a lot by making mistakes and being brave. Well, at least, I can now pronounce choked correctly. After all, we’re all here to learn.
Although it wasn’t easy, I truly believe that being an international student has been an interesting journey. All those things that I talked about before, may have been about myself, but it is actually a common problem to almost every international student. What I want to say is that, to all international students out there facing this problem, just be brave and confident, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, cause in the end, it is all going to be worth it. And I want to say thank you to my friends and teachers who have been accepting, kind and friendly. You have totally made this journey much easier for me.
Thanks for listening.