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English Was My Second Language Growing Up & Now It’s My Major in College

When I made the decision to major in English, I was already seeing desks covered in books, saved essays littering the desktop of my computer and pens strewn across tables. To many people, this is a frightening endeavor, but I embrace the challenge of writing with unparalleled passion. I have always found an inexplicable enchantment with words, which is why it comes as a surprise, to many, that my first language was not English. 

I grew up speaking Cantonese, and entered kindergarten not knowing English. My first day of school was chaotic, to say the least. In a hot, stuffy room filled with boisterous, shrieking kindergartners, what made the situation worse was not being able to understand what the children were screaming. My classmates were confused— why was I not talking, not responding to them? But, I was even more baffled. Who were these people and what were they saying? Thrust into this strange environment, and forced to navigate this situation on my own, I felt out of place and frightened.

Each day, I would see the same faces, and feel the same scary experiences. I began to understand some things, “Good morning,” and “sit,” but there were still so many words and questions being pelted at me that I could only deflect, leaving me confused and feeling paralyzed. Out of my depth and motivated to combat my confusion, I took to the library to try and learn English. Book after book, I would trace the words on the page and say them aloud, trying to identify their meaning and come up with a cohesive translation for myself. I started to read— choosing book after book, absorbing word after word, and from there, I did not know how to stop.

Years later, I am still unable to tear myself away from a good book. I become captivated by the emotion and the power that words are able to convey. I chose to major in English because there is something so incredibly powerful and enchanting about words. Among every book is a story—a story that can teach, that can educate, and most importantly, that can help you grow. 

To many people, words are just letters on a page, intangible objects that are used as a form of entertainment. But to me, words are an art form, and the way they get pieced together to become a literary masterpiece, is most certainly, a sight to behold. So many thoughts and ideas running around an author’s head, put together in a sophisticated and beautiful manner. 

As a kindergartner, I made the first decision to seek out a book, and to try and read the words on the page. That one small decision has spiraled and caught me in a web; now, years later, it feels like I have no choice but to find more words. 

Images courtesy of Pexels

Kalysa was the 2020-21 Editor in Chief and Campus Correspondent for the UCLA chapter of Her Campus. She was also previously a Senior Editor and Feature Writer for the chapter. On the rare occasion she's not busy studying for school or writing for Her Campus, you'll probably find her indulging in tiramisu or reading (and re-reading) her favorite novels. 
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