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What Stresses Me Out: A New Environment

Joined: 10/2/2010
Posts: 10
When I first stepped into the school upper division hallway, I was dumbfounded: the hallway was congested with so many energetic students, who were chatting, chasing and laughing. People’s loud voice, mixed with the incessant noise of closing lockers made the whole place chaotic. I nearly cried out: “Where am I?”

There is no wonder that I asked such question. I am a Chinese student who come to study in a high school in USA. Undoubtedly, the environment in USA is totally different from that in China. At the beginning of my time in USA, this completely new environment significantly stressed me out, but the good news is: later I found a secret recipe to conquer the stress. Well, let me continue my story:

After I calmed down a little bit, I found my locker, picked up my books and went to my first class, English. In this class, we started to read Hamlet. Even though I read Hamlet in Chinese version before, I had no idea what the book talked about as all the words were old English. I just kept looking up the words in my electronic dictionary. When it came to class discussion, I didn’t dare to raise my hand to answer the teacher’s questions because I didn’t even understand the teacher’s questions, which sounded really abstract. In a word, I looked rather reticent in class. The first day at school, as I could remember, was pretty depressing.

However, more frustration was coming to me. When I went home, Kathy, the hostess, smiled to me and told me with full fervidness that she was going to cook a very traditional dish called macaroni cheese. Cheese!? Suddenly the sour smell and cloying taste of cheese came up in my mind. “No“, I talked to myself, “I don’t like cheese!” After two hours, Kathy, even more excited this time, brought me a bowl of macaroni cheese and waited for me to try it. I, looking at the intimidating cheese, took a small bite. The taste was strage, but I still told Kathy I loved it since I didn’t want to hurt her feeling. Probably this was the longest meal I had ever had, which took me about two hours because I covered my nose with one hand and ate with the other slowly.

After finishing my dinner, I lay on my bed and ruminated over my first day. It suddenly dawned on me that my eagerness at the very beginning had already vanished. Instead, a powerful stress occupied my body. “Can I adapt this new environment?” I kept repeating this question. However, I was not going to answer No to this question. As a famous American author John Maxwell said, “ If we are growing, we are always going to be out of our comfort zone.” Indeed, I was now out of comfort zone. If I grow, I need to be brave to face any difficulties in this entirely new environment. Therefore, I created a recipe to expel the evil stress: be brave to try anything; try doesn’t hurt anything.

This recipe did work effectively. I found that I was changing. When I first raised my hand in English class to answer the teacher’s question on the imagery in Hamlet even though my answer was not that satisfactory, everybody in classroom gave me a deafening applause, which gave me considerable confidence. From then on, I raised my hand often in class to share my opinions with other students. During class, I actively discussed with other classmates. Gradually, I cultivated some friends with whom I could share my happiness and released my stress. In order to experience the local traditional festival, I attended the annual chili cook-off and tasted myriad chili. I began to adapt to American food. What surprised me was that I began to love the macaroni cheese, which made Kathy very happy. All of these changes, because of my belief that I should at least try first, made my life in this foreign country much more colorful.

Now, when I step into the school hallway, instead of being astonished by the chaotic scene, I say hello to everybody I meet and develop a pretty useful skill to quickly go through the congested hallway. Thanks to my secret recipe, I am not depressed by the new environment anymore. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy my life here. My eagerness to learn about the culture of this foreign country comes back again, which I am sure, will no longer vanish. To try or not to try, that is a question. However, my answer to this question, is Yes.
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Comment by AmyDoodle

Joined: 6/23/2009
Posts: 38
What a wonderful recipe for success! I'm proud of you and I'm going to try to face challenges the same way you faced this one. Congratulations on your decision to make this experience a good one. (By the way, Hamlet still sounds strange to me and English is my native language!)
Posted: Saturday, October 30, 2010 6:49:21 PM
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Comment by xyipeng

Joined: 10/2/2010
Posts: 10
Hi Amy, thank you for your comment. I am really glad that you agree with my method to get rid of stress. I hope you happy everyday!
Posted: Saturday, October 30, 2010 8:28:45 PM
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Comment by bugcandy

Joined: 11/5/2008
Posts: 286
Wonderful essay.

I personally wanted to let you know that your essay is one of the finalists from the October the writing contest about student stress.

We'll be announcing the winner on this page soon:

Thanks for sharing your story on We look forward to seeing more of your essays!

CEO, Stage of Life
Posted: Saturday, November 13, 2010 3:20:00 PM
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Comment by andreleon

Joined: 11/13/2010
Posts: 2
Technically this shouldn't be allowed to win since it's over 700 words and the rules clearly state "Essay can be no longer than 500 words." The use of more words than allowed gives this writer an unfair advantage against the others.
Posted: Saturday, November 13, 2010 5:28:22 PM
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Comment by xyipeng

Joined: 10/2/2010
Posts: 10
Hi, yes, you are right! Thank you for your advice and I will try to limit my words next time.
Posted: Saturday, November 13, 2010 6:56:45 PM
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Comment by etiquetteguy

Joined: 6/22/2009
Posts: 52
You have cleared a very large hurdle, not only in this foreign culture but in life in general. Thank you for your courage in sharing such personal feelings. The subtle reference to Hamlet and its relationship to your recipe is beautifully crafted writing. You will teach many people to be happy!
Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 1:01:54 PM
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Comment by DarkStar49

Joined: 5/28/2009
Posts: 332
This is a great story of unconditional adaptation! The success you found with this recipe and how you used it to your advantage is a lesson for us all. Thanks for sharing your story and it's inspiration!
Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 6:05:33 PM
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Comment by pgarbero

Joined: 10/19/2010
Posts: 44
What a great essay. It's great you put some personality into the essay; that's probably why it did so well. Congratulations!
Posted: Monday, November 22, 2010 4:48:41 AM
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