Realizing My Lifelong Dream Of Building A Library In My Hometown

Xiaoling Zhu

Personal Statement

My name is Xiaoling Zhu, and I am an international student from Chongqing, China. I am here studying at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology and working towards earning my nursing degree. Studying here in America has always been a goal of mine, and it has really been such an incredible experience so far. I have learned so much already, and through this essay, I am thrilled to be able to share my personal story and journey, and most importantly, my wish to be able to give back to the community where I am from.

I have to say that growing up in a traditional family in the rural part of Chongqing, China, wasn’t always the easiest. I am the youngest child with 1 brother and 3 sisters who are at least 12 years older than I am. As far as I can remember, it was always a struggle for us financially, with my parents having to work so hard and long to pay off debt while having hungry mouths to feed. Being the youngest certainly had some benefits, but being a girl in a house full of girls made things harder for me. But as I reflect back on my childhood, I believe my personal experiences then have really shaped who I am today and the values that are still important to me. I learned at a very young age just how important financial stability is and how good health and healthy habits really help to make that possible. And I also learned such an important life lesson that I carry to this day, that education through reading and writing has allowed me to be where I am in a place I could never have imagined. I realize how lucky I am to be able to be here in America as an international student, working my way to earn a college degree. Coming from my small hometown, I know not many people have the opportunity like I have, simply because they are not able to afford an education or even worse, because they are a girl. In my hometown, we don’t even have a public library. So my lifelong goal and dream is to be able to give back and build a library in my hometown to help underprivileged children like I once was and to show how reading can change their life.

As a small child, I was always interested in reading. In our house, we didn’t have any novels or even magazines as we couldn’t afford to buy them. The only books we had were textbooks that my older siblings had from their schooling. Those textbooks didn’t tell any stories, or any that I could remember. But I knew what the textbooks were for, which was to teach. And I realized I wanted to learn and get smarter and if I got smarter, perhaps it could give me a chance to do something more than what I was expected to do at home, which was to be a housewife. Instead, I wanted to study and learn and get an education and hopefully be able to get a job to earn money. So I learned to read and started reading any textbook I could get a hold of with the purpose of just trying to get smarter.

My parents, being traditional, didn’t see the value of me wanting to read. As we didn’t have a library in our hometown, they would have needed to spend money to buy me books, which they couldn’t afford to do. So one day, I asked my mom if I could go to school. I wasn’t old enough to go to primary school but I thought at least there were books there that I could read. So I begged and cried to be able to go to school, only to be scolded by my parents that it costs money to go to school and that I didn’t need to go. I still remember this very clearly, and I think in some ways, this experience early in my childhood helped me become more inspired to be able to help other children who may want to read and learn but just aren’t able to.

As I got older, our family got into more serious financial troubles, which I became more and more sensitive to. When I was about 11 years old, I was outside our house skating on my roller skates and had a terrible fall. I had fallen backwards onto the concrete ground and landed straight on my tailbone. I knew at that time that I had seriously injured it and possibly my back as well as I couldn’t even stand up or walk. I slowly crawled my way back into our house and into my room. I was so scared to let my family know that I had gotten hurt playing on my roller skates and I would get in trouble because we would have had to go to the hospital, which we couldn’t afford. So I hid my injury, which never healed properly, and I was in constant pain. And because of the pain, I wasn’t able to do very much of anything, including what I enjoyed the most, like reading and studying. I realized then just how important being healthy was and that I couldn’t do anything if my body and mind wasn’t well. So when my tailbone recovered enough for me to be able to start walking normally again, I did more and more walking and hiking which made my legs feel stronger and helped my injured tail bone feel better. Since then, walking and hiking has become a part of my life. No matter how busy life can get, I always make time for walking or hiking as it’s such a great exercise for me, physically and mentally. I have learned through that experience how exercising in general makes me feel so great, and it has become a habit for me that I love to do daily.

Through reading and studying, I was able to graduate at the top of my high school, which helped me to leave my hometown and go to study in Beijing. When I first arrived in Beijing, it was so different and so big compared to my hometown that I felt completely lost and overwhelmed. So I did what was most comfortable for me, which was to read. I read everything I could about Beijing and the more I read, the more natural I felt about being there. Beijing felt like home and where I belonged. And Beijing is where I was able to first start earning money. I discovered what became a passion of mine – healthcare – working my way up to be able to own and operate a beauty and health clinic. From this experience, I realized what I wanted to do, which was to study in America and earn a degree in the healthcare industry. And here I am studying at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, which is still hard for me to believe could happen growing up in the countryside of rural China. I am working on earning my degree, but my goal does not end there.

My childhood experiences have taught me a few important lessons, that financial situation has a big part in being able to make healthier choices and that good health is needed in order to be able to work on achieving that financial stability. And because of my childhood experiences, I have learned to appreciate the value of reading, and I want to be able to give back to the community that I was raised in. My lifelong dream is to build a public library back in my hometown where all children, rich or poor, boys or girls, will be able to learn to read. I want to be able to share how important it is to get an education and share how reading has really changed my life.


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The Lion's Pride, Vol. 15 Copyright © 2022 by Xiaoling Zhu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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