Michael Flores | The Confucius Institute at Texas Southern University
I was born into poverty, but I was given an opportunity to study at a prestigious high school in Houston. Bellaire High School Magnet Program gave me the means to escape poverty. My local high school would have done little to further my education. Upon acceptance, I had to choose a language to study. The language that appealed most to me was Mandarin Chinese with Dr. Sara Tsai. I saw this as a chance for educational nourishment and to transcend poverty.
While taking Chinese, my home life continued to nosedive. Chinese became my escape from the problems at home. Tsai Laoshi was a marvelous teacher as she put in an extra effort to educate me in Chinese grammar. As high school continued, I embraced the Chinese style of teaching and studying which allowed me to excel in my other classes. In my junior year, I was promoted to Huang Laoshi’s class. Huang had an impact on my life that cannot be put into words. She was there for me and provided support and care –something that was completely foreign to me. By this time, going home was no longer an option. Huang took notice of my condition and made me feel like I had a home. Her classroom was my first true home. Something I never expected happened to me: Chinese gave me a home, not only within the language, but within the culture. My class had many native speakers who embraced me with open arms.
Huang treated me like a grandson and told me she was proud of my hard work. I was 15 and this was the first time anyone had ever told me they were proud of me. This provided extra motivation to delve deeper into the culture and language. By my senior year, my life had decayed again as I dealt with the fallout from breakups and high school dating. Huang took notice again and made it very clear that I will always have a home in her class. As high school came to a close, I was accepted to numerous colleges. Huang asked me what college I was going to attend and then made me a gourd inscribed with my Chinese name (天乐) and the university I was to attend. I did not have much, but this was my most valued item.
Eventually, I ended up at Texas Southern University. I wavered back and forth on what to do with my life. I ran across the Chinese department at TSU. They told me about the HSK tests and how they could afford me a chance to travel to China with all expenses paid. My new Chinese professor, Fa Laoshi, was both a breath of fresh air and reminiscent of my former home at Bellaire High School. The Chinese language classroom and Chinese culture provided the first home I ever had and a home that will stay with me forever. Just a few hours before I sat down to write this essay, I was informed that my grandmother had passed away. The entire Chinese Language department comforted me and then gave me the materials for the HSK 3 and 4. Chinese has had an immeasurable impact on my life and it will continue to be of great importance to me.