Home Away From Home-An International Student’s Turning Point

It all started when I was four years old. Flying all the way from Bangkok to San Francisco was the most exciting thing for a little girl traveling abroad for the first time. I remember the city’s ocean breeze as I walked along Fisherman’s Wharf with my family. We were at the Disney Store and my mom was busy picking up some stuff for me and my brother. It was twenty years ago, but the boardwalk was crowded just as it is today. I was in front of the store looking out toward the carousel and remembered thinking it must be a fun ride if so many people were hovering around it. I could not speak any English at the time so I was a little scared because I did not know what anyone was really talking about. I just felt like it was a really nice place to be in and the weather was a lot cooler than back home in Thailand. After the end of the trip, I set a goal to come back someday.

Growing up in Thailand, I was really quiet and shy and made sure I didn’t talk much. I was a good student and the teachers liked me because I was always the quietest student in class. Back in Thailand, students who stayed silent, and did what the teachers told them to do without asking any questions, would be seen as good students. It is the opposite of studying in the U.S. where students are supposed to speak up and share their ideas with everyone in class. I never thought that the next stage of my life would turn out to be so far out of my comfort zone.

When I was in my freshmen year of college in Thailand, I had been studying there for a year, but I wasn’t happy with where I was at. I was about 16 or 17 at the time, so it was quite early to attend university right away, but I continued anyway and I felt like I did not make the right decision. One day, my mom asked if I wanted to study abroad. I did not know where that came from, because she originally planned to send me abroad for a graduate degree. I hesitated at first because being away from home for four years was a very long time. However, I grabbed that chance and moved to Seattle for two years, then transferred here to San Francisco State University.

I chose to major in print and online journalism at SF State mostly because I love to read. If there’s a job that required a person to read all day long, I would be the first to apply for that position. Unfortunately, since there’s still no such job, I wanted to go for something practical that relates to books, and writing was the only thing that I could think of.

Halfway through my time at SF State I started to wonder, “Is this what I really want to do? Is it worth it?” As I mentioned earlier, I was not an outgoing kind of person, so when I got to reporting class I started to feel afraid.

As a child, stating my opinions in front of everyone in class was difficult enough, so having to approach and interview strangers was the most intimidating task for me. I actually thought of transferring to another department just so that I did not have to do all the things that I was afraid to do.

As a student in my reporting class for the first time, I was given the assignment to cover a city district so I chose to cover Japantown, which extends to the Fillmore area. I had to approach the people living in that area and interview them about issues going on in their neighborhoods. Instead of backing off, I gathered up my courage and approached a person selling merchandise along Fillmore Street. The person opened up about his life and what he was doing very quickly. After I finished talking to him, I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of.

I don’t even know what I was so afraid of. The people I talked to were really nice, they were more than happy to help. The way I look at things all around me started to change, I started to see the good in what I do.

When I write a story, I get to be the voice for those who don’t have one, as well as those who might not be as loud as other groups of people.

I realized that my work could affect other people’s hearts and minds, and that I’m part of something so much bigger than myself.

As I finish my last semester here at SF State, I would have to say that being here in San Francisco taught me to be more open to the possibilities of whatever happens in life. I first thought that four years of studying in the U.S. was going to be forever, but now I realize that it went by so much quicker than I thought. Choosing to study here is, by far, the best decision that I have ever made.