My name is Andrew. I am 17 and from Malaysia. I am living for a year in Wisconsin as an international exchange student.
"Please step this side for secondary immigration," said the immigration officer as he directed me towards a secluded room. I breathed deep, held my breath, and walked. My heart was beating a thousand beats per second.
I was in San Francisco International Airport, my port of entry into the USA, along with the entire Malaysian delegation of 30 Youth Exchange and Study (YES) exchange students. Every single male scholar but one was sent to secondary immigration. I was confused. Do they think I'm a terrorist? Am I already in trouble after only 2 hours of being on American soil? Bewildered, I stepped inside the room, and awaited my fate with bated breath.
"I'm an ex-diplomat!" shouted a man to the officer at the counter, "You have no idea how important my business is!"
Beet-red, and obviously upset, he was the center of attention in the room. I was shocked and surprised at the unexpected situation.
"I demand to be treated with dignity and respect! I could have your job for this! All of you!"
The man who was shouting at the top of his lungs just 5 seconds ago looked sheepishly to the officer. Then everyone broke out laughing.
He forgot his line.
It was a movie shoot. The immigration officers were making a film about how to deal with troublesome visitors who go through secondary immigration. And we were in the background! How cool is that?
Welcome to the USA.
Ever since I've been here, I've seen so many things and learned so much. I'm eating tons of meat instead of rice. I'm learning in English instead of Malay in school, and I'm loving it. I used to respond to a simple "How are you liking it here?" with "I like the snow," but that was until I had to shovel it. I've went skiing (and fallen down quite a couple of times), snowmobiling, and worked with clay for the first time in my life. I'm in the Forensics, Math Meet, and Knowledge Masters Open teams, and I will be competing in the Solo/Ensemble Competition (I hope I'll win some awards!). The teachers and friends I have here are all extremely friendly and helpful. My host family is wonderful, too. Things are just so fun here. And these are just some of the new experiences I've had ever since I've been in America. But I haven't made a snowman yet.
I find myself not only constantly learning new things, but also learning more about myself: my personality, my character, my beliefs. I've been challenged to seriously think about what I truly believe in, about my convictions, and about myself as an individual.
I hope that I will leave an impact on the American people that I will meet, that I might be able to promote understanding and goodwill not only among Malaysia and the USA, but the world at large. That when Malaysia is brought up in a conversation, people will say, "Hey, they have cool people down there." That I can somehow, through my speech and my deeds, plant seeds of friendship that will bloom into beautiful flowers of harmony and continue to spread the perfume of humanity. I sincerely hope that more and more people will understand that it doesn't matter which country an individual is from, for deep down, we are all the same. We have so much in common. These are my hopes for what I will do.
I hope that I will make a difference.
And that you will one day visit Malaysia. Malaysia is a beautiful nation in South-East Asia. It is a paradise where Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, and more are proud to call themselves Malaysians and live together in peace and harmony. Malaysia has wonderfully friendly citizens, spectacular beaches, and most importantly, the best food in the world.