Student Speaker: Gloria Song
Gloria first discovered her passion for communications while volunteering at the broadcasting station at her high school in Chongqing, China. She came to Edmonds CC because the International High School Completion Program allowed her to take high school and college credits at the same time, giving her a head start on her future educational goals. Since she'll be transferring to Pennsylvania State University to complete her Bachelor's degree, and then pursuing a Master's degree after that—it was important to maximize her time at Edmonds CC.
"I left home to study abroad in the U.S. when I was 16. It was very challenging at first, but the past two years at Edmonds CC turned out to be my most amazing educational experience ever," Gloria said. "Someday I'm going to publish a book about my study abroad experience here in the U.S."
How did Gloria adapt to being alone in a foreign land? "When I first got here, I could barely understand anything in my history class due to the language barrier, and I was so terrified that I literally cried in front of the whole class," Gloria recalled. "My history instructor Melody Schneider not only encouraged me to stay in this class but also took one extra hour per week to tutor me in her office. She gave me confidence to do well on academics during my hardest time."
Gloria also stayed active outside of class — writing, reading, playing the flute, participating in service-learning projects, and hanging out with friends. One of her favorite memories — performing a mash-up of 17 Chinese songs in a flute-piano duet (she played the flute) at International Night.
She continued to challenge herself by taking a job as the Club Events Programmer at the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership a year ago.
"This work experience has empowered me to be a student leader. I loved the job and everyone in the office!"
Gloria's advice to students? "Keep challenging yourself. Ignore your insecurity and prove to yourself that you can do it."
Gloria Song: Commencement 2014 Speech
Did you guys understand what I just said? Well, that's pretty much how I felt in my first history class here in the United States.
18 years ago, I was born in Tianjin, China, but I actually went to school in Chongqing, and yes, there really is a city called "Chong Ching, China", just google it!
I had the idea of studying abroad in the U.S. after coming back from a short-term international exchange program in Arlington Washington when I was in 9th grade. I told my parents how fun it was to explore the outside world, to meet new people from different cultures, and how much they loved Starbucks. I wanted to become a high school exchange student!
So my parents thought about it and supported my decision. But later they heard about the International High School Completion Program here at Edmonds Community College, and they thought this program sounded better because it would allow me to take high school and college credits at the same time.
When they told me about it, I was really scared to picture myself sitting in a college class in America, I wondered, "How am I going to compete with all the other American college students that are older than me in an English classroom; when I haven't even graduated from High School in China?"
But I decided to challenge myself.
Therefore, I boarded the flight to Seattle alone on March 24th, 2012 when I was 16.
And it was challenging indeed. I still remember totally freaking out in my first history class. I understood nothing I read in my textbook, and to catch my instructor's words was almost as hard as understanding the lyrics in a rap song by Eminem. I was cowering in the corner, too afraid to speak a word or even make eye contact with my American classmates during discussions. As soon as the class took a break, I walked up to the teacher and literally cried in front of the whole class. "I can't understand what you are saying. I think I need to drop your class."
Oh boy that was embarrassing.
Fortunately, my teacher and advisors were extremely helpful. With their encouragement, I gradually had confidence to speak up in class more and more with my broken English, and as you can see, I've taken it to another extreme and become a person who always talks too much.
Last Spring, I got a job at the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership a.k.a. "CSEL" as the Club Events Programmer. One of my responsibilities was to talk to people to promote CSEL, but I didn't feel that comfortable just walking up to people and talking to them. I worried that I couldn't serve this campus as a leader while being an international student who has a hard time pronouncing "Connecticut".
The first time I tried to talk to a student about CSEL was at a campus resource fair for new students: "Hello! We are from the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership! You can start your own club! Oh I like your hair! Did you braid it yourself? Oh maybe you can start a hair-braiding Club!" The new student was really intimidated by how dramatic I was and hurried away.
I still think a hair-braiding club was a good idea though.
I had always thought that I was at a disadvantage as an international student, but after I volunteered to assist new incoming international students at Welcome Orientation Weeks for International Student Services a.k.a. "ISS", I realized that I could actually use my bilingual communication skills and cultural understanding to help people.
From not being able to communicate in English at all, to speaking up in class, to speaking to the whole campus, then to speaking here at the commencement, I've come a long way. Every time I faced a challenge, I constantly doubted myself, asking "Can I?" But after I managed to overcome one challenge, I was always surprised to see myself doing those things that I didn't know I was capable of. When I look back, it is challenges that made me grow so much for the past two years (I'm not talking about my weight though). And through overcoming these challenges, I found my aspiration — to become a Media Professional who serves as a bridge between cultures. And someday when you turn on your TV, you are going to see me interviewing people from all over the world.
And this time I say, "I CAN".
As you get ready to leave Edmonds CC, I hope you all can believe in yourself. Stop assuming the limits of your own abilities. Go grab the opportunities to overcome your insecurity and prove to yourself that you can do whatever it is you want to do, for example—like what Cindy just said—driving in the snow. Walk out from your comfort zone because a comfort zone is just like a bubble—it looks pretty at first, but sooner or later it is going to pop; it can't protect you forever. Challenge yourself to be a leader, and challenge yourself to make a difference in this world.
And please make a good difference!
Also, remember it's okay to ask for help, just as it's okay to cry in front of the whole class like me. I want to give a shout-out to all who have helped me, encouraged me, and inspired me to challenge myself. Thank you to my parents for always supporting my decisions. Thank you to Melody Schneider for instructing me one-on-one during my most difficult time. Thank you to CSEL and ISS for empowering me to be a student leader. Thank you to Julie Wescliff and the entire commencement committee for giving me this opportunity to speak at our graduation; I feel really honored. Thank you to my host family, my friends, and so many wonderful restaurants in Seattle for making my stay here in the U.S. full of precious memories.
Thank you to Edmonds Community College for the most amazing educational experience I have ever had.
Lastly, thank you guys for patiently listening to me talking here for the past 10 minutes.
All right, we made it, Class of 2014, congratulations!