Fighting to hold the tears back, I sat restlessly in my seat with a cold blanket hiding my face. A long eighteen-hour flight lay ahead of me, during which time I could absorb the fact that I had just left my friends, my family, my country, my home. I was torn between sadness at leaving my whole life behind and a feeling of anxiety and excitement at starting a new life in an unknown world. .
For twelve years, South Africa had been my home. By attending a private Catholic school with only seven hundred students from kindergarten through grade twelve, I grew up with the same friends and classmates in each grade since the age of five. We knew each other so well that we were like family, and I blossomed in this sheltered environment. .
This sheltered environment was shattered on the 22nd of July 1997, when my family received a large, white, official envelope from Philadelphia that changed our lives forever. After reading the contents, my parents informed me that we won green cards to the United States in an international lottery. "It is a chance of a lifetime," they said, "an opportunity to leave a crime ridden country.".
Within a month of landing in the United States in August 1998, I started public school as a tiny eighth grader in a monstrous building. I felt overwhelmed by the fact that there were more than three hundred students in my grade alone. For the first time in my life, I felt an outcast like an alien from an unknown place. My classmates just viewed me as this strange small Asian girl with a "British" accent who emigrated from Africa. I yearned to return home, hoping that this was simply an unpleasant dream. The realization that this was my new life felt like a hard slap in the face. Immediately, I was faced with the challenge of finding new friends, adapting to a public school system, and a whole new different culture. .
I quickly learned to embrace the challenge, knowing that I could not live in the past.