Learning, the Real Drive to Life

Serena - Derby, Kansas
Entered on March 3, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

My mother inspired me to persistently strive to learn. She came to America from China when she was 32 when my dad got an engineering job in America. My dad explained that there were two things he knew they both needed to have before coming to America: good engineering skills and English. His quick rise to the top of his department in less than a year proved him correct. His strong grasp on English enabled him to edit my sister’s sentences for grammatical errors when she was young and help me with SAT writing questions. However, my mother’s grasp on English was not solid as his when I was growing up. For some reason she did not get the chance to study English as much as my father did and so when she came to America, her broken grammar, vocabulary, and diction unfortunately led to taunting at work and conflicts with her boss. However, she never showed that this depressed her. Instead, this gave her fuel and motivation to work even more on her English. After work, my mom would exercise in front of the TV and watch American movies for hours into the night simply so she could learn English and repeat phrases slowly to herself, learning how the words sounded, felt, and tasted. She would bring a book or a magazine to read along with an English-Chinese dictionary while waiting for my music lessons to finish and sometimes would ask me to pronounce a word for her she had written down on the car ride home. Whenever she cooked or cleaned, she would listen to news radio stations or audio books and ask someone to spell a new word so she could memorize and recognize it more easily in the future. She spoke to my older sister and me mainly in English so she could make improvement everyday and ask us to correct her grammar and pronunciation, which made us different from other Asian-American families because typically the parents would speak their native language at home. Her commitment to learn a very difficult second language struck me in awe. She never stopped trying to develop her skills as a programmer either. Once we moved and my dad was able to secure a more stable job, she quickly enrolled in a state college to finish her degree. The work was not easy and yet she was able to raise her kids, work full time and complete her homework and programs on time. She finished her bachelor’s degree, decided to pursue her master’s degree, and graduated with honors a couple of years later. She continued to take some advanced computer science classes afterwards and still studies various programming textbooks today. Her dedication to educate herself and put her entire mind and heart into what she was doing convinced me to do the same. She explained that I could not settle with only what I know, I must be constantly hungry for education and growth while practicing what I learn because more knowledge will open more doors and reveal more secrets. This is the belief I live and stand by today.