Life in three different continents

Joe Dai (’23) has traveled around the world, experiencing school in Germany, China, and America.

Joe Dai (’23) smiles for the camera. (Joe Dai)

As immigration remains a hot subject nowadays, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to migrate between three different countries as both political and cultural restrictions emerge in the process. Joe Dai, a junior at Amador who’s born in China, has experienced moving across three continents. He had originally grown up in a competitive and stressful educational environment, hence his anticipation for the quality educational system in the US that later led on to his inspiring life adventures.

“I’ve always loved the idea of America – a place where kids can have fun and no homework,” explained Dai (‘23). 

As a result of his mother getting a job as a Chinese teacher in Buffalo, Dai’s American dream was able to come true as the family moved to the US for the first time. He soon encountered one of the biggest challenges at his playful age.

 “On my first day of school, I quickly realized things weren’t going to be that easy – I didn’t speak a single word of English,” said Dai (‘23). 

With the help of peers around and the language environment, during his critical period of language learning, Dai was able to master English.

“My classmates were very kind and outgoing, and actively tried to teach me new words and slang. They even tried to communicate with me using Google Translate,” said Dai. 

Moving back to China in his last year of elementary school, Dai was pressured by the Chinese educational system again. This time, he started his journey in Munich, Germany, which brought him a different life experience. Dealing with a language which has more complex grammar rules, Dai faced a period of hard time dealing with language incompetence.

 “It took me half a year just to master the basics of grammar. For the first few weeks of school, I stayed silent to cope with the shame of being unable to speak German,” said Dai

After three years of middle school in Germany, Dai once again moved to the US, where he became a high school student at Amador. Compared to young kids, Dai found that it was hard to build connections with those native teenagers as a newcomer.

“One thing I noticed about Amador is that everyone already knew each other from middle school and had built solid friend groups, which made it harder for me to fit in than ever before…Some struggles I had include having to force myself to be extroverted, because Western culture in general encourages outgoing personalities, whereas this is less emphasized in Chinese culture”, said Dai.

As Dai continued to discover the ways of fitting into new cultures, he found that it is always about the bravery of establishing relationships with people who might speak different languages and carry different values. 

“The moral of the story is: persistence paves the path,” said Dai.