Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
I came to Shattuck when I was 13, and it is hard to believe that I have already spent six years here. I can’t say I was a good student or even a good kid when I was a child. When I was three years old, I set fire to my room after a fight with my parents. When I was four, I had a fight with my mom in the car about why I needed to go to kindergarten. I pulled the steering wheel and made the car hit a bus that was next to us. When I got into primary school, I became much calmer. I really liked my teachers, and I knew any conflicts between me and my classmates would burden them.
I had a good time in my primary school, but not in my middle school. I remember the first thing that my middle school teacher told me was I had to get into a good high school and then get into a good college for your life to be successful. If you don’t, then you are a loser.
I always hated the value that these teachers put on purely academic success. I knew my life wouldn’t be that bad, even I couldn’t get into a “good college.” I didn’t want to abandon all joy and make the college entrance examination the only goal in my life. This is why I came here, because I thought studying in America would be easier. As it turned out, I was wrong about that.
The year before I came to America, I went to an English study campus in Beijing. I assumed the students there would be about the same age as me, but the fact was, most of them were preparing to attend college in Canada or America. They were choosing to go overseas because they couldn’t get into any colleges in China. This made me even more certain that the schools in America were easy.
My classmates in Beijing thought it would be easy, too. They didn’t care. After only a week, most of them would all disappear by one o’clock in the afternoon to party. I once asked my roommate why he wanted to be a boarding student, even though he didn’t want to study at all. Then he was proud to tell me his TOEFL score was fake, and his parents sent him here only because they wanted their child to have the title of boarding student.
At first, I used to judge him for this. But then I thought about my original goal to be a boarding student to attend an easier school, and I realized I had no right. When I finally applied to schools in America, my parents asked me to choose one state. The options were California, Minnesota, and Massachusetts. I excluded California because I hate hot weather, and I eliminated Massachusetts because its name was hard to pronounce. I finally ended up at Shattuck.
And it was hard! I can still remember Mr. Carey making me write my plan for the weekend so I couldn’t play video games all day. The stress of study here is never less than in China, but here the effort always pays off. Each individual has his or her own definition of success and self-achievement, but it would be meaningless if this success is gained by cheating. The price will keep rising just like the usury, and it is never worth it.
The last six years have shown me that those who look for shortcuts will find big trouble. My old roommate in Beijing who was proud of his fake test score left Canada only after one year. Another student there hired another student to attend class for him and got expelled only after one term. There are so many tragic stories like this around me, and they are like an alarm clock to keep reminding me to not cross the line.
This fall term might be the hardest time for me just like other seniors do. The stress from daily classes, SAT, and college application seems to ruin our life. I don’t know what my future will be and which college I will finally end up at, but at least I know I already have walked this far step by step with no qualms upon my heart. At this point, I wish that all the seniors can achieve their goals and dreams, and I hope all of you have a great time this year at Shattuck.