Jie – li!” Without hesitation, I leaped out of the car and followed the warm call from the wooden porch, where my grandma was waiting. In her bright pink slippers, she was bundled up in the layers of clothing she wore almost year-round. Out of the side of my eyes, my grandpa offered me a smirk and wave as he calmly tended to his pots of flowers. Inside the house, an aromatic concoction of Chinese herbs and spices filled the living room with the smell of spaghetti bolognese.
Those were my Sunday afternoons. During my seven years living in Shanghai, my parents and I would make an hour-long car ride every week to my grandparent’s home in the city suburbs. And on the way there, I would always ask my parents why we were visiting again and so soon.
Although I did not understand it then, over time, I slowly grew to realize what those long afternoon hours meant to me. Sitting by the porch side with my grandparents, listening to their thrilling childhood stories and passed-down family recipes to their outspoken views of world politics – the world was my oyster. Mid-conversation, I burst out with questions, sometimes even the same questions, causing my grandpa’s eyebrows to furrow delightfully.
Growing up, I had always spoken a mix of Chinese and English to my parents, but being tasked with only speaking in Chinese with my grandparents could not deprive us of our laughter and tears. I always felt open to sharing my adventures and observations with them. I felt newly connected to a side of my family culture that now breathed and flowed through me with ready embracement.
This feeling continued to resonate with me at school. In Shanghai, I attended an international school with other students of different backgrounds and stories to be shared. To me, school was a time to explore. As I formed friendships with other students, I developed an open-minded curiosity to explore countries and cultures. Whether introduced to a new food, a language or a friendship, these moments validated me and taught me something novel, something unfamiliar but akin to me at the same time.
Seven years later, I was struck by the news that my family was moving to San Diego. I was distraught. But before I could know it, a new journey had led its way into my life, and it was the start of high school. Though with little sense of direction, I entered TPHS, ready to face any hurdles life might throw at me. I began to introduce myself to classmates and started conversations with teachers. I also actively participated in different club activities.
Glimpses of my passion shined through when I enrolled in Beginning Journalism during the pandemic. Immediately, I became drawn to the ideas of personal connections and storytelling that journalism brings alive. Reminded of the moments I shared with my grandparents and old friends, I knew journalism spoke deep into my self-discovery of cultures and beliefs. Through interviewing numerous individuals and reporting dozens of stories, I gleaned new skills and information that equally enhanced my enthusiasm for journalism and my global citizenship.
On campus, friends may constantly find me interviewing a student or teacher during class. Meanwhile, outside of school, I travel to unfamiliar parts of the city and stretch the boundaries of photojournalism with the x100 Fujifilm camera my grandpa gifted me before I left Shanghai.
Ultimately, I see my roles as a global citizen and journalist as a catalyst for an appreciation and self-discovery of cultures. I am proud to have worked to spread the values of cultural learning and my love for journalism to provide a unique and upstanding platform for all voices. To me, wherever I find a home, home is a place of endless diversity and exploration, which I forever hope to embrace.