Although she was only one semester away from her high school graduation in Singapore, Rosanne’s parents wanted her to finish school in the United States and apply to colleges there. Her brother was already attending a U.S. college, so she moved in with him and enrolled in a local school. “I was really mad," she says. “I was pretty satisfied with my life [at home].”
Rosanne’s parents warned her about culture shock, but she didn’t take them seriously. “I was like, ‘My parents don't know anything.’ But yeah, they knew what they were talking about." Understanding slang was especially difficult. "Half the time I’d be like, ‘What did you say?’”
Not only did she have to succeed at a new school in the middle of senior year, she also had to navigate a whole new culture — mostly by herself since her brother was too busy to help her out much.
On top of all this, she faced the challenge of filling out college applications. “I basically cried every day,” she says.
Rosanne’s parents advised her to take the initiative and approach her classmates. Although it meant taking a “huge step outside [her] comfort bubble,” she did it, asking other students to have lunch or just hang out. The friends she made helped her better understand American English and culture.
Her new friends also helped with her college applications. “I found it really hard because I don’t put myself out there a lot” she says. “It was hard to put [my strengths] into words and not sound cocky. It came out like, ‘I’m great!’ My friends ... taught me how to sell myself in a more humble way,” she says.
She also made a valuable connection with her high school counselor. Rosanne describes him as “really bubbly ... He would always make jokes. I didn’t feel like I had to watch what I said.” He made her feel comfortable asking for extra help completing applications and writing essays.
Her senior year at a U.S. high school was tough but along the way, she discovered that she could survive — even thrive — as an independent person. “I didn't have to rely on my parents. I just needed a push to get out there and do things myself.”
During her first year of college, Rosanne volunteered at a home for Alzheimer's patients. Since her grandfather and aunt both suffer from the disease, the experience carried extra weight.
“[Volunteering] made me realize that my loved ones are going to be in that state and I can't do anything about it.” She’s now motivated to learn more about Alzheimer’s so she can play a role in the effort to end it one day.