Toastmaster - Speech contest

Leave the Comfort Zone
- August 9, 2011 -

I’d like you to think about a moment when you felt you were growing up. When I was in my sophomore year, my favorite professor Dr. Guo said, "Only when leaving the comfort zone can a person really grow up." The so-called leaving your comfort zone means leaving your family, the friends you are familiar with, and the environment you grew up. Therefore, I made up my mind to study abroad after college.

When I was in my senior year, one day I went to a finance professor, Dr. Li's office to ask for advice for schools in the U.S. He gave me a list of all the top schools in the U.S. such as Harvard, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, and so on. The next day I received an email from that professor. A friend of Dr. Li, named Dr. Chow is a finance professor at West Virginia University. He was seeking two students at Dr. Li's department to his new program of master in finance with full tuition waiver. "Studying abroad experience for free!" sounds appealing. I went to interview with Dr. Chow when he went on a trip to Taiwan, took graduate school test GMAT and English test toefl, signing up a language exchange partner to improve my English, and went to Tainan, the city with all good Taiwanese food the day before I left Taiwan to the U.S.

I landed in the U.S. in a small college town called Morgantown, West Virginia two years ago. Everything was exotic, and my English was so poor. Walking on the street, a lady friendly greeted me, saying "how are you doing?" I said, "what?" and got closer. "How are you doing?" I said "what?" and got even closer. "I said How are you doing?" I finally realized and said, "I'm good." and then went to a grocery store shopping, same scene happened again. After three days, I learned that the only sentence I need to know to survive on the street is: “I’m good.”

Not only my listening, but my English speaking was poor as well. I did not know the difference in the pronunciation of Pepper and Paper, Chef and Shave. I was anxiously looking for ways to involve myself in the English environment, including hanging out with my host family, signing up for a conversation partner, and going to the gym. It did not take me too long to figure out there’s a gym on campus offering free workout classes and personal trainers. I went to every single class to learn the vocabularies of exercise, and signed up for a personal trainer to make sure there was at least one person in that gym that I could speak English with. Let alone the English practice part, I was completely into the workout itself. I ended up settling down in a Karate class as the only student, kicking and punching for an year with a teacher who did not talk too much. So now, I really doubt if you can tell the difference when I say chef and shave….

After graduation from West Virginia University last August, as a master in Finance, I moved to Atlanta, and ended the long-distance period in my relationship with my boyfriend. He is here in the audience today. I had a hard time finding a job as a foreigner, and I ended up being an office administrator at Huawei Technologies, a Chinese company which is going to take over the U.S. I mean, their news appeared in Wall Street Journal so often during a period of time that my American friends were always joking about it, although they do not even know how to pronounce the name correctly…..You say…you work for Huawei, huwei, huwaii technologies….?

Although this position is not on my career path. In the past six months working at this position, I learned how it looks like to work at a big company. Also, I saved money to sign up for the Chartered Financial Analyst exam level II, and practice English speaking with my American coworkers and vendors. The result of the exam was just announced last week and I passed, but there is still room for the improvement of my English speaking. That is what brought me to Toastmasters club. I would appreciate it if you all are strict to my speaking, my pronunciation, and grammar. So our grammarian, you know how important your role is.

Thanks to Dr. Guo, I really grew up in the past two years in the U.S., at least my muscles are growing. Don't feel depressed when you encounter frustration. Recall Dr. Guo's saying," Only when leaving the comfort zone can a person really grow up." You are actually growing up when there's headwind coming to you.


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