This I Believe

Katelyn - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on November 16, 2006

Good Old-Fashioned Hard Work

June 1998. An almost eight-year-old girl arrives at an international landing gate in the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The plane lands after a ten-hour flight from Beijing, China, to Detroit, and the girl impatiently waits to get off the plane. Because this is her first plane ride and first trip outside her birth country, she is apprehensive about living in a completely different culture.

I was this girl. I, along with my parents, immigrated to the United States from China just before my eighth birthday eight and a half years ago. When I stepped onto the carpeted floor in the Detroit airport, I did not know a word of English. In China, English only becomes part of the curriculum in third grade, and I only finished second grade there. Therefore, I could not communicate with other people.

I needed to learn English quickly. Since I arrived during summer vacation, I did not enroll in school until the following August. During the summer, I learned the alphabet and some basic vocabulary, and became able to communicate with others on an everyday basis. At first, every day I would go through a stack of flash cards with letters of the alphabet with one word attached. After that, I progressed to simple words and phrases. I also learned English from listening to my relatives who spoke the language fluently. Therefore, when school started in late August, I could follow along in class fairly well. Nevertheless, I continued working. Every day I would copy down the DOL (Daily Oral Language) exercise, and study it at home until I knew it completely. I began borrowing massive numbers of books from the public library to help me improve my reading. Every possible Saturday, I would go down to the library and pick out ten books for the next week. I devoured the books. I sat reading at all hours, often reading all of the books two times before the week ended.

All this work paid off. After one year, I knew the English language as well as my classmates did. In fifth grade, I won first prize in a grade-wide vocabulary contest. My language abilities improved, and I began winning spelling bees and surpassing my original goals.

I believe in the power of hard work. I believe that, with hard work, one can reach any goal that one resolves to achieve. I worked to become fluent in a new language in just two years, and succeeded. Andrew Wiles worked for seven years on the proof of one of mathematics’ most famous conundrums: Fermat’s Last Theorem. He persevered through setbacks and continued working; finally, he succeeded. Therefore, I believe in the power of hard work to achieve anything.