On the way to the U.S. (Don't worry, the cards have either expired or are samples used as fridge magnets!)
Many of us have grown up dreaming of living the American Dream, including myself. As a teenager, I used to regularly play golf with a couple of American friends who were living with their families in England because their fathers worked with U.S. organizations based in London. At university when studying economics, I found that much of the economics literature was written by Americans, and while I at times dreamed of one day going there to live, it all seemed a little beyond my reach.
For our younger son, Morrison, the dream may be a little easier to realize than it was for me, since I did not first set foot in the United States until I was nearly 40. Morrison visited the U.S. for a few months when he was four, and then in 5th grade when he was 10 went there where he graduated from Kahakai Elementary School, Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i, and spent in total almost 8 years of his life in Hawai'i.
At the end of our time in Hawai'i, Morrison still had one more year of high school, and upon our return to Taiwan, things looked a little uncertain. Life was also a little hard for Morrison at that time, as he had to leave all his good friends in Hawai'i and complete his high-school studies by correspondence. Having been home schooled for almost all of his teenage years, would he be accepted into a U.S. college? There were also other things like SAT scores that he had to concern himself about. I myself had not paid much attention to these issues and even wondered if he could take these tests on Taiwan.
When Morrison attended a small cooperative school in Hawai'i at around the age of 12, the teachers looked at each child and chose a character trait to describe what it was that each child had that caused him or her to excel. For Morrison, the character trait was "Determination". During the last two years in Taiwan, Morrison was certainly determined. In spite of a very laid back life in Hawai'i during his mid-teen years when his school performance was very so-so (homeschooling often seemed to be "no schooling"), Morrison's grades improved year by year and, even in subjects he found difficult, he managed to complete his assignments on time and get good grades. To prepare for the SAT test, he bought a large book full of practice tests and would sit in the local library for three hours at a time doing practice tests. While his written English (understandably) may have left a little to be desired, his Math scores got higher and higher.
Morrison applied to three U.S. colleges and was accepted by all of them. After careful deliberation, Morrison settled on Elmhurst College in Illinois where he will read for a B.A. in International Business starting this fall. Last week Morrison went to the American Institute in Taiwan to be interviewed for his student visa and now he has that, the next step will be to book a flight to Chicago some time in August.
Studying in the U.S. is not cheap, even though Morrison fortunately was able to secure a more generous scholarship than I had expected, given our circumstances. However, as a parent, I am confident that the money that I invest in Morrison over these next few years will be well worth it, as I know from being around him all these years that he is very careful with money, and he is also someone who can be entrusted with other people's money. In Hawai'i, a few of his friends for certain periods of time actually left some of their savings with him for safekeeping, to make sure that the money would otherwise not be spent when they were saving up for things like relatively expensive overseas trips.
Elmhurst College, Illinois, established in 1871 as a seminary, and today offering a liberal arts education. About 10 miles from Wheaton College and about 40 minutes from the middle of Chicago.
Of course, just going to America does not guarantee success, and one can be successful in all kinds of places, particularly in Taiwan as I in a small way have discovered for myself. However, as anyone who has lived in the U.S. for a length of time will realize, the United States is a land of opportunity, a land that treats people with due respect, regardless of their ethnicity, color or religious beliefs, a land which values the liberty of the individual, and a land in which one can easily make a lot of friends.
As for me, the U.S. is a country that I feel I can be a part of without being one of its citizens (which I might well be if the process was a little easier!). During my eight years there, I could relate to what was going on, from the 9-11 tragedy, to Katrina, to the sporadic campus shootings, as well as to the more successful events like the return to earth of the space shuttle or the inauguration of the nation's first black president, Barack Obama. However, I am also European, and have lived much of my life (and continue to live) in Taiwan, and so I guess I will visit the U.S. for relatively short trips from now on. I hope that the next few years that Morrison spends in the U.S. attending college will be enjoyable and will help prepare him for whatever lies ahead, wherever that may be.