I have seen the rainbow and the path that leads to the brighter future of mine

I have seen the rainbow and the path that leads to the brighter future of mine


One of my current teachers once told me that the true nature of making decisions is to decide what you are not going to do.  The moment I decided to come to America is when I decided to leave my family and come to an entirely new country and start a new life.  Was it easy?  I would be caught in a lie if I said no.  However, I have no regret.  Marching through the storm, I have seen the rainbow and the path that leads to the brighter future of mine.  Right now, I am more than thrilled to share my experience with you:


This is my journey so far in America


I came to Hamilton, Ohio in 2016 through ICES to attend Stephen T. Badin High School.  Before that, I had stayed in North Carolina for a year on a different visa and through a different agency.  I was nervous and apprehensive when I first arrived in Hamilton.  I was on my way to claim my luggage when my host mom, Carolyn Smith called my name, “Benny?”  I responded immediately with a smile on my face.  She hugged me.  It was one of the most sincere and loving hugs I have ever received from a person who I meet for the first time.  It was at night.  So, I just went to my host mom’s house and went directly to bed.

On the very next day, I went downstairs to officially introduce myself to my new mom, who I will be staying with for at least one year.  She asked me, “Benny what do you want to do first?”  I told her that I wanted to make friends first.  Next thing I knew, I was at a young boy’s house where my host mom took me.  The young boy’s name was JD.  He was a senior at Badin High School.  He wore a pair of glasses and he had a big cheerful smile on his face.  He was one of the finest bassists in Badin Rocks, the Badin rock band.  I told him that I used to play the piano and that I am highly interested in joining Badin Rocks.  JD encouraged me to join the band and said that he would give me a ride home after practice on Thursday – that’s when the school started.


When I said goodbye to everyone, I had a feeling: this is where I belong.


Encouraged by JD, I went to my first Badin Rocks practice after my first school day ended.  When I first walked in the door, I thought I was at a flea market on a Saturday afternoon – loud and crowded.  JD saw me and he yelled, “Benny, my man!  Play me something on that keyboard!”  The room suddenly turned silent.  It felt like I was suddenly teleported to an art gallery on a Sunday morning.  Everyone was looking at me.  I knew they were wondering who this new kid was.  I sat down at a keyboard and started playing Turkish March by Mozart.  It was not perfect, but everyone clapped and gave me the title of “The Piano Lord.”  I used to play classical music so I had no idea about how to play a rock song.  I was lost completely.  I looked at one of the music teachers, Mrs. McCormick for help and she helped me with patience.  I had a wonderful time during my first practice.  When I said goodbye to everyone, I had a feeling: this is where I belong.

Throughout the year, I joined the choir, string ensemble, and jazz band.  I have been coming to after school music programs every day even until now.  The most challenging and rewarding one is jazz band.  In China, jazz was not known by many people, at least not me.  So, I found it extremely challenging to “feel” jazz on the piano and to improvise.  However, I was all up for the challenges.  So, I asked my other music teacher, Mr. McCormick to help me with jazz skills.  He agreed to stay for an extra hour on Monday after school to help me with my jazz skills.  As long as I was at school on Monday, I always stayed and worked with Mr. McCormick.  Gradually, I started to “feel” jazz on the piano and my improvisation skills improved.  Even Mrs. McCormick said, “Benny, you are much better at piano and improvising than I am.”

Badin Rocks held 2 concerts every year.  During winter concert, I played with the whole band and played Foreplay by Boston, Bored to Death by Blink-182, and O Tannenbaum by Vince Guaraldi Trio with some friends.  During the spring concert, I played with the whole band and played The House of The Rising Sun by The Animals and Right Here Waiting by Richard Marx with friends, and I sang Dark Necessities by Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Recently, I played at the Underground, where Twenty-One Pilot once performed, with Spencer Anthony and his band, which consists of three other of my best friends.


While I enjoyed my music passion at Badin, I also found my place in theater.


I always have a passion about theater.  I took theater class and participated in class activities actively.  I was not afraid to be on stage.  I love the feeling of the stage lights shining.  I was the lion in the play Oz, Shakespeare in Desperate Housewives of Shakespeare, prince and also mama in The True Story of Cinderella, and Mr. South in Whodunit.  In my junior year, I had my first musical experience.  I was Mr. Hannigan in Annie.  I loved and enjoyed every moment in theater.

During the summer before my senior year, I went up to Boston and visited Harvard University.  I was so blessed to walk around in my dream university.  My host mom told me, “Benny, I can just see you being at Harvard!”  And I truly believe so, too.


I couldn’t be any happier…


In my senior year, I was honored to be selected as the Homecoming King by the student body.  When I walked onto the football field, faced thousands of people, and heard my name being announced as the King, I couldn’t be any happier.

It turned out that I could actually be happier when I found out that I was accepted into National Honor Society (NHS).  I was tapped into NHS by Mr. Gretz, my AP Computer Science Principles teacher.  I had proved to everyone that I am a leader, a great student, and a contributor to my society.

I am involved in Big Brother Big Sister Program, where I am assigned with a little “brother” from Crawford Woods Elementary School.  Every Tuesday after school, I help him with his homework and play with him.  When I see the smile on his face, I feel a little bit selfish that I am actually happier than he is after the program.


I give thanks every day that I have Kim as my Local and also regional coordinator.


My local coordinator, Kim Shreve is an awesome coordinator.  She organized trips to Chicago, Washington DC, Perfect North, and so on.  It was sad that I only went on the trip to Niagara Fall; however, I had a wonderful time, especially at Hard Rock Café.  Kim is very outgoing.  Every time she sees me, she always gives me a hug.  It is one of the most loving hug I have received.  Kim likes to talk and I love to listen.  She always has story to tell, and I always have time to sit down, listening to her story while I am enjoying a cup of soda or coffee.  Kim calls me monthly to check on me.  Every time I see her name appearing on my phone, I cannot help but pick up the phone with a sincere smile on my face.  I give thanks every day that I have Kim as my Local and also regional coordinator.

Last, but not least, I want to thank ICES with all my heart for giving me the opportunity to come and study in the United States.  Without ICES, I would have never accomplished so many wonderful things.  ICES is the ship that helped me reach this land of the free.


I have made the decision to live my life, to believe in all the good and positive in my life no matter what happens.


My journey in the United States has just begun. I am looking forward to my success in the future.  For those who want to come to America but are hesitating, this is my word to you:

“On this land of the free, all you need to do is to believe in your dream. Believe it, and you will receive.”


Benny 🇨🇳
exchange student  from China
living with his host mom Carolyn Smith in Hamilton, Ohio