My immigrant family always put education at the very forefront of every decision.
It was why we moved to a new country and why my parents sacrificed so much to take me to violin lessons and auditions, DECA competitions, and yearbook conferences. It also explained why my mother would ask her co-workers at our family restaurant to help me with homework while she skipped her breaks to take on their shifts.
Getting into an “elite” university was the goal even though no one in my family (including me) knew what the “top” schools were before second-semester junior year and how to get in. That semester was also the first time I had ever heard of colleges outside of my state schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Duke. What I had perceived with getting into them was that my entire life would change and that all of my problems, challenges, and difficulties would automatically fade away if I just get into X school.
The short answer is that isn’t the case, but the long answer is that it has changed.
When the incessant sobbing and unequivocal excitement calmed down after seeing my acceptance, I felt no different. Everyone — from distant relatives in China to acquaintances that I haven’t spoken to since middle school — was congratulating me. It was like the whole world saw me as something different from the day before, but I was the same person. Now, I had a school attached to my name.
I felt so much inner conflict with this new reality because I realized my preconceived notions that my immediate life would change weren’t true. I was still the same person who enjoyed looking at the latest k-pop comebacks and watching YouTube cooking videos until three in the morning. I also felt such an overwhelmingly sense of privilege that I felt I didn’t deserve.