It’s no surprise that college can be expensive. Between the cost of tuition, book fees, living expenses and more, pursuing a higher education can be an intimidating financial undertaking to say the least. With this in mind, the Relocation Department for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties set out to create a scholarship program to help make college more affordable for high school seniors that have experienced the relocation process firsthand.

Kathy Denning, Regional Vice President of NRT West Relocation, provides an insider’s look into the launch of the the company’s new Relocation Scholarship Program, its widespread success and this year’s winners.  She explains that while the company’s initial goal was to “provide a little peace of mind to the applicant who most effectively communicated how the relocation process has affected them personally, the program also provided remarkable insight into the moving process itself and some of the universal factors that are experienced by individuals along the way— the up’s, the down’s and a period of self-discovery and personal growth.”

Without further ado, here’s a look at this year’s Relocation Scholarship Program turnout and the winning essays.

First thing’s first…who was invited to apply for the company’s Relocation Scholarship Program?

Keeping in mind that the relocation process affects millions of families each year, the company wanted to make the program available to all high school students that were set to graduate in the spring semester of 2016.

Were there any guidelines set up by the company to ensure fairness when selecting the winners?

Absolutely. Those who met the said eligibility requirements were invited to submit an original and thoughtful essay exploring the topic of relocation. In addition, the selection process itself was based on a scoring system and blind review that ensures fairness and confidentiality for every applicant.

How many essays were collected in total?

We had a wonderful turnout of essays, especially considering that this is the program’s first year. In total, we received 66 essays from all over the United States including Hawaii, Utah, California, Texas, Kansas and more.

Were there any common themes or universal notions about the process of moving that you noticed when reading all of the essay submissions? Likewise, were there any noticeable differences between regions?

Most definitely. It was truly amazing to see both the parallels and also the differences among this year’s submissions. Starting with the differences, it was incredibly insightful to see where some of these applicants moved to and from. For example, we had two applicants that had lived on a boat for years, while others moved down the street and finally, some across the country. We even received an essay from the child of one of the actors from the TV series, Lost. Moving on to the similarities, it was very apparent that every essay was well thought out. The applicants shared extremely personal situations and the heartache that comes with moving. However, they all agreed that relocating helped them grow stronger and more confident.

How were the winners selected?   

It was decided by the company that the applicant who most effectively communicated how the relocation process affected them personally, and how they grew from the experience in an original and thoughtful essay of 1,000 words or less, would be awarded a scholarship in the amount of $2,000 to any college of their choice.

Now on to the exciting revealing… Can you tell us about this year’s winners?

This year’s winners are Cynthia Chang and Samantha Harpool. Cynthia plans to attend Harvard to study Neurobiology and is a Presidential Scholar Nominee, National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar.  Her extracurricular activities include being the Debate President and Key Club Division Coordinator. Samantha Harpool plans to attend Boston University to study International Relations and Economics.  She wants to work in sustainable development with the U.N. or another humanitarian organization.

Are you able to share the winning essays with us?

Most definitely! Below are the winning essays that were prepared by Cynthia and Samantha in that order.

Essay Winner #1 Prepared by Cynthia Chang

On a windy day in 1973, a woman hesitated on the last step of a plane ramp. In her petite hands were two suitcases with decades of past memories condensed inside. Her final destination was Cleveland, Ohio, where she would seek work at a denim factory. As she took her first step off her plane and into her new life, her heart fluttered and she dreamed that her family in Myanmar would rejoin her someday in this new country to find success. She would pass away at the age of 65 from lung cancer, still clinging on to a hope that she thought would never manifest itself into reality.

The woman was my great-grandmother. She left my grandmother and my mom when she sought a new beginning for them in America. 18 years later my grandmother was able to join her in Ohio to work at a cosmetics factory, but my mom – a graduate student at the time – was forced to flee from Myanmar to Australia with my dad to seek refuge in the aftermath of the 1988 student riots.

Thus, to my family, relocation has always come with sacrifice. In Myanmar, my mom was a college graduate and my dad a business owner. After they emigrated, however, my mom had to take night classes to earn her degree again while juggling a full-time job. My dad, unable to find a job with his degree from Myanmar, worked night shifts as a warehouse supervisor. We moved from place to place in my childhood, and I had difficulty coming to terms with our situation. I cried when we left Australia behind to move to California because it meant starting all over again. It signified that new challenges were ahead for me, from learning English to finding new friends.

It was only when I matured that I fully realized the toll that relocation had on my parents as well. Their sacrifices were reflected in the times my dad asked me for help composing his emails to his colleagues, and the moments he was afraid to order at a restaurant because of his broken English. I saw them embodied in the nights that my mom came home exhausted and forwent dinner so she could sleep for a little longer before the next day.

Even through these struggles of relocation, my parents showed me how to turn difficulties into hope. They couldn’t always help me with my schoolwork or create a perfect life for me, but they’ve given me more than I could ever ask for – support for the inquisitiveness that feeds my experiences, inspiration for my work ethic, and the ability to pursue my own endeavors.

Their unconditional love presented itself in the long hours my mom sat with me in the library when I first became engrossed in science. A decade later, my dad kept me company in the moments when I composed email after email to professors for laboratory research internships and faced constant rejection. When I finally received an email back from a cardiovascular research scientist at the Cleveland Clinic who agreed to take me on as a summer intern, the first people I told were my parents – the ones who had given unwavering support to a daughter who dared to dream even if these ambitions took her across the United States. At the end of my nine-week internship, when I received a copy of the manuscript that I’d worked on, I cried out of happiness for what it symbolized – not only the months of work I put in during the summer, but also the years of support leading up to it. My parents cried too, seeing me achieve something they never even dreamed of for themselves.

These moments have taught me that relocation is intertwined with the meaning of family and the value of new beginnings, and that it is important to embrace change and selflessly cherish the beauty of small moments. Even now, when I volunteer at my local hospital and elementary school, I realize the unending potential for my own growth, from the first time I experienced the thrill of dedicating myself to a larger cause – a childhood day when I fundraised for those displaced by Cyclone Nargis – to the years of service that followed.

Relocation allowed me to meet people of different worldviews and backgrounds across the globe and has showed me that my actions have the ability to positively impact others in my family and community through small moments. The new experiences through this service – like a tearful “thank you” from a mother I had comforted who saw her son on the verge of death and still had the strength to retain hope – continue to drive me.

In 18 years, my journey has taken me across two continents, three states, and five places I’ve called home. And now, 43 years after my great-grandmother took the first step off of her plane, I am standing at the place where her story of relocation began; this summer I am back in Cleveland to begin another research project on heart failure. I visited her grave just this past weekend – I wish I could tell her that the sacrifices of her relocation were fruitful, and that her great-granddaughter now has dreams of her own.

In August, I am moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts. I will be starting my freshman year at Harvard, where I will be studying Neurobiology and Global Health on a Pre-Medicine track. Ultimately, I hope to travel internationally to reform healthcare systems in third-world countries like Myanmar and give back to my community. For now though, for the first time, I will be relocating by myself.

But I know that I will not be alone in my journey. My story does not belong solely to me but also to the struggles of those who came before me. In their names, I embark onto the next chapter of my life, to transform the aspirations of my teenhood into the realities of my adulthood.

Essay Winner #2 Prepared by Samantha Harpool

There was a goat in my room, for the second time this week.

Lucy, with her twisted horns and mud-caked coat, was sleeping on top of my brand new comforter.  Without missing a beat, I picked up the nearest pillow and nudged her awake.  She lazily rose and followed me outside to resume feasting on pine needles, but I knew that in under an hour she would find a new napping spot.  The shock of my room being turned into a livestock pen has almost completely worn off after inhabiting “Mayhem Farm,” my accurately titled home, for almost seven years.

Along with the home intruder, my family owns two dogs, six other goats, and twenty-eight chickens of varying breeds.  We have a garden, a tractor, and an ancient red barn with classic white trim.  It is the farm you see in children’s books and the type Old MacDonald used to inhabit.  My brothers adored the endless number of trees to climb, rivers to fish, and the general sense of being in a Mark Twain novel.  My parents loved the view and the pride that comes from growing things themselves.

I . . . I hated it.

Growing up near Chicago, Illinois had made me a city kid at heart.  I thrived on the lights reflecting off towering skyscrapers and practically worshiped the intricate city sidewalks that, to me, held so much promise.  There always seemed to be stories in every square inch of cement, waiting to be tripped over.  However, more than a few stones were left upturned when my family relocated from the banks of Lake Michigan to the Rocky Mountains.

Before I could even say the word “moving,” I was buttoning up my overalls and nothing was going to take me back to the city.  When we moved I knew I would have to leave behind furniture, clothing, and other mementos but I had no idea that I would be trading it all in for a pair of work gloves and a pitchfork.  It was bad enough that I had to adapt to a new school, new friends, and a new altitude but now I was expected to wake up with the rooster’s call and muck stalls.  Not exactly how most people imagine their teen years.

For years I groaned whenever my parents marched me outside to dig holes, cringed every time someone wanted to come over to observe the petting zoo that was my backyard, and adamantly protested the idea of door to door egg selling every time my mom brought out the cartons.

Only a full-blown natural disaster could have changed my mind.  And it did.

During the Boulder Flood of 2013, our entire acre was covered in two to three feet of rushing, rising current.  We had to evacuate on the third day of consistent downpour, but since most hotels don’t offer turn-down service for goats, we had to leave everything behind once again.

Suddenly in the middle of rain, wind, and thundering skies, I couldn’t bring myself to move.  The thought of leaving was so upsetting that I froze.  None of this made any sense to me whatsoever; I thought I couldn’t wait to leave the farm.

If Chicago had taught me how to explore my surroundings, the farm had taught me to build them into something worth exploring.  Over summers, school breaks, and the occasional snow day my family and I transformed what was once just a plot of land into something much more valuable.  The hours of digging, building and tending had changed me as much as the landscape.  At some point, the farm became home, like Chicago, and the thought of losing another home almost drowned me, literally.

After a few days of nonstop anxiety, the clouds cleared and we returned to clean up the wreckage.  I was right there, clearing branches, shoveling debris, happy to be back in the mayhem once again.

Any parting words from this year’s winners?

Yes, they were very excited to learn of the good news! Below are their expressed words of gratitude for being named this year’s scholarship winners.

Samantha Harpool—

“I am so thankful to Coldwell Banker for providing me with this scholarship. I am excited to relocate once again to Boston University as I continue my education in yet another new environment. Relocating has taught me to always notice and learn from my surroundings and I am so grateful to be able to further explore this idea in the future.”

Cynthia Chang—

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Coldwell Banker Relocation Scholarship Program for encouraging students in the local community to aim higher. I am thankful for the generous award and I firmly believe that this scholarship will empower me to fully pursue my aspirations in college and beyond. Ultimately, I hope that my story of relocation—and the subsequent passions that grew from that story—will serve to inspire other students to strive for higher education.”

Well there you have it! Congratulations again to this year’s Relocation Scholarship Program winners, Cynthia Change and Samantha Harpool. Between now and the end of the year, we will be posting a collection of some of the other notable essays that were received locally over the course of the program. Check back regularly for our ongoing series of Relocation Stories!

Other Exceptional Essays

Alexandra Mueller, Escondido. (Would love to take photos of people and places in need for not-for-profit websites and design social media.  She’ll be studying social and cultural media with an emphasis in photography at the University of Redlands.  She was photo editor of the yearbook in high school.)

On my twelfth birthday I was on a plane flying from Chicago O’Hare airport to San Diego.  My family was all next to me, my mom, my dad, and my siblings, Christian and Genevieve.  My dogs, Delaney, our Labrador retriever, and Muffins, our spaniel mix, were in the cargo hold.  My dad had been relocated and we were moving our whole household and everything to California!

I was excited, but terrified.  Would I make friends?  Would I like living, not just visiting, California?  Would our extended family visit us?  Would my old friends forget about me?  We had just travelled to China to adopt my sister Genevieve barely a year before.  How would she adapt to another major change?

I had seen the new house; my mom had taken me to Escondido, California, our new town, to look for homes.  I remember being very hesitant about even looking at new houses.  We were leaving the best house ever, a huge three story on a lake with two acres and kids all around.  We had just moved there two years earlier.  I loved it.

Our realtor was a lady named Kathy.  She was very sweet and understanding.  I remember walking into our new home and thinking, this is nice.  There was a large staircase that twisted around.  The house was sunny with textured walls, all very interesting and different.  We went up the staircase and looked at the bedrooms.

Kathy walked us through the house and then she led us to the huge kitchen.  She walked over to the wall, pressed a few buttons, and said, “What do you think about this backyard, Alexandra?  It’s a little smaller than your old one, but it looks like fun.”

The backyard of our new home was like a resort.  There was a huge deep blue tiled swimming pool lined with large boulders.  The yard had palm trees and green grass and strange plants with orange flowers and shrubs with pink flowers that all filled my eyes.  As I was taking it all in, I heard a strange gushing sound.  I realized that off the middle of the swimming pool was a fountain and to the side of the fountain was a slide that went right down into the swimming pool!

Sitting on the plane, I thought of the pool and smiled at Genevieve.  My sister and I were just getting to know each other.  She was from China, and was six years old and had joined our family only a year before.  She had beautiful almond shaped black eyes.  I thought she was so cute but she called me, “Pretty Jei-Jeia,” which means, “Pretty older sister,” in Chinese.  She thought I was the pretty one of the family and she was the ugly duckling.  She had a severe cleft lip and palate that she was self-conscious about.  When she smiled, like she did now, she put her fist up to her mouth to hide the lower part of her face.

“It will be okay,” I said to her.  “We have a pool, it’ll be fun!”

Her eyes clouded over again.  She didn’t know how to swim.  In the orphanage they had taught her that all water had sharks in it that would bite her.  My mother explained they taught this to all the kids to keep them away from water for their own good, because none of them knew how to swim.  But it made her terrified of water.

Christian was chattering about the house and the pool and his new school.  Christian could make friends anywhere and so can I.  But Gen, still struggling with English and life outside an orphanage, would have a tougher time.  She slipped her hand into mine.

A few days later, the moving trucks had come and gone, our things were mostly unpacked, and it was a hot and sunny day in Southern California.  My mom turned on the slide and my dad brought out some music and we all put on our suits.  We had already met some neighbors across the street and they came over to swim.

The water was blue and warm and inviting.  I was excited and immediately slide down the slide.  Of course Christian had gone down first with his new buddies.  Everyone was having fun, even Delaney ran around the pool barking at all the kids.  Only Gen sat tentatively on the side, thin as a rail, with her hand pushed up to hide her lip and nose.  The other kids had looked at her curiously but they were friendly enough and didn’t stare.

“Come on in, Gen,” the other kids were all yelling to her.

She shook her head.  I swam over to her.

“I know you miss the old house and grandma and our old friends and the school.  I know you were just getting used to it there.  But these people are nice, too, and we can have fun here.  Just come in the pool.”

Christian swam by.  “Chicken,” he called out.

And that did it.  She whirled around out of the pool and clambered up the rock steps to the slide.  Without giving herself a chance to think twice, she went down the slide into the deep part of the pool.  She bobbed up laughing and splashing around.  I grabbed her arm and pulled her to the side.

“See?”  I said, “No sharks!”

We all thrived in California.  The relocation was one of the best things that had ever happened to me.  We all loved the outside activities and the sunshine and the mountains and the beach and we made a lot of friends, the lifetime kind.  Gen got her surgery and never puts her hand up to hide her mouth anymore.  We still use the pool all the time.  It’s funny because Gen and I were just two sisters from Chicago and China, and we got used to being California girls pretty easily.


Edward Dragon, Livermore.  (Plans to attend Arapahoe Community College.  He’s looking forward to living in Colorado and enjoying the slopes next winter.)

It was the summer after the end of my 7th grade school year.  My family had started moving at a frantic pace.  We were throwing away anything that was unnecessary and always keeping the house in pristine condition.  Strangers toured our house, looking over it as if with a magnifying glass, scanning for imperfections.  Soon after men went through our home placing marking stickers on everything and packed away everything in boxes.  Finally, all the boxes made it into one large truck while my family loaded up into a minivan and started a four day drive from Louisiana to California.  Everything seemed to move so fast that looking back on it now it seems a little unreal.  Now I am preparing to move again to a new state.  This has prompted me to think about how my previous move has molded me into the person I am today.

The first things that come to mind are the new gains and losses in my social life.  I had many close friends in Louisiana and moving away from them was certainly the hardest part of the relocation process. In the first year I spent in my new city of Livermore was particularly challenging.  I constantly cursed my ill fortune of having been forced into this new experience.  However, when I reached high school I began having a more positive view of my new life.  I had made many new friends who are still with me today.  Since technology is such that I can reach people over large distances I was able to keep in close contact with many of my old buddies in Louisiana as well.  IN the end relocation has greatly expanded my social circle and now that I have my eyes set on Colorado I look forward to expanding that circle even further.

Moving has made me become more aware of the diverse people and cultures of the world.  The Bay has taught me how to get along with people from nearly every cultural background imaginable.  I have become close friends with people from China, India, Mexico, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Israel, France, Italy and the Philippines.  I had the opportunity to speak with exchange students from Japan and Germany.  My neighbors across the street are from Iran.  As a result I consider myself an extremely racially tolerant person considering that I have friends of almost every ethnicity.  This is in sharp contrast to Louisiana where all of my friends were either Caucasian or African American with the majority being the former.  Had I never moved I may have been a much more closed minded individual.  Being surrounded by people from around the world has made me into a worldlier individual.  It has also rounded out my own personal beliefs of the world giving me more confidence of my personal ideals.  I certainly feel that this personal growth would never have been possible had I not relocated.

When I began living in California I quickly learned that the local culture was very different from my home state in the Deep South.  Personally I believe that the culture in a particular location is something that can easily be taken for granted.  When I was living in Louisiana I never thought about how everyone there was generally very religious.  Particularly where I lived in the New Orleans area everyone I knew was Roman Catholic.  In the Bay area there is a much wider variety of religions that I knew nothing about.  I had no idea that Mormons and Scientologists even existed before I moved to the Bay.  In general I find that the culture of the Bay area is generally much less religious than in Louisiana.  A fairly large majority of the people I go to school with in Livermore are not religious at all.  When I first moved I found this change to be shocking.

Other large differences include the ecofriendly nature of the Bay area.  In Louisiana my family was used to just dumping whatever garbage we wanted on the front lawn on trash day.  There was no real limit to the amount or type of garbage we put out.  As soon as the garbage men came it was all gone.  Now I am dealing with multicolored trash cans of limited amounts to support recycling and composting, there are ecofriendly car lanes on the interstate, and cars have to be smog tested.  As a result of these changes in culture I am now less religious than I was from back when I was living in Louisiana and I am more environmentally conscious.  For better or worse these changes to who I am were made possible by relocating.

Now I am preparing for another move.  We are already restarting the now familiar process.  My family is going through all of our unnecessary clutter and tossing it, a more difficult task considering the Bay area garbage regulations, and are now starting to prepare putting our current house up for sale.  Now that I have already experienced moving I feel much more confident in the endeavor than I did in my previous experience.  I now feel thankful for the move that happened six years ago.  I can look back and see how I have grown and changed as an individual, and I am proud of that growth.  I am now excited to relocate again and experience more of what our country has to offer.


Nicole Tseng, Moraga.  (Plans on going into a pre-med program at Cornell with a focus on nutritional sciences.)

“Well, you finished the race . . . then all of a sudden, you fainted and were out for ten minutes.  Welcome to Florida!” my coach sighed, smiling wearily.  What was she talking about?  Then I remembered.

I remembered lying on the ground, the wetness from the grass seeping through my cross country uniform.  I remembered the worried faces hovering over my hospital bed and how I failed to recognize them.  I remembered feeling disoriented, wondering how I ended up there.

“Welcome to Florida!” my parents said to my two siblings and me as we drove through downtown St. Petersburg for the first time.  I remembered when they first told us about the job opportunity 3,000 miles away.  I remembered the late night conversations weighing the pros and cons of moving.  I remembered surprising both my parents and myself by being very open to the concept.  Although I had happily grown up in a small town east of San Francisco for the past fifteen years, the thought of living somewhere new intrigued me.  An adventure awaited.  I was truly excited to see what the world had to offer outside of California.

Florida offered heat and humidity.  For some reason I had the mentality that I was ready for anything, but I obviously overestimated my abilities of running in the tropical climate.  I did not expect to faint one month into this adventure.  My situation certainly put me on the radar of everyone who heard about it.  Even the school’s principal sent me an e-mail that read, “Stay hydrated!”  At school the next day, all eyes were on me.  “Are you that new girl from California?  The one who fainted?  Do you want to hang out?”  The girl who fainted made friends in an odd sort of way.  It took a little while but as I continued to build these friendships and connect with people, the label was forgotten and I settled in well.

“Welcome back to California!” my parents said to my siblings and me as we turned right onto a familiar street, our street.  Everything looked the same and it felt as though we had never left.  Were we really gone for two years?

I remembered when we learned about another job opportunity, which entailed a move 3,000 miles back . . . home?  I remembered feeling some disappointment because I had just gotten situated and was comfortable where I was.  Florida seemed like home.  I loved my friends, my teachers and the community; and I did not want to graduate from anywhere else.  But I remembered thinking, “What’s one more move?” – as I forced myself to stay positive.  Life pulls us in all sorts of directions and we have two choices.  We can either cry about where we are taken or we can smile, embrace it as an adventure and face it head-on.

Right now I am back at my former high school and it seems as though nothing has changed.  “Welcome to Campolindo High.  You’re invited to new student orientation.  See you there!”  I glance over the list of recipients on the e-mail and my suspicions are confirmed – I am the only senior.  I laugh a little to myself, feeling lucky to be in the unique situation that I am in.

Here I am not known as the girl who fainted, but instead as the girl who moved and came back.  Two cross-country moves in twenty-two months has given me the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a “new kid” and figure out how to acclimate into vastly contrasting locations.  I have learned that life is full of change; and even though change and challenge will be thrown my way in the years to come, I am confident that I will be able to figure it out and even thrive.  I will be able to adapt to new environments, forge new relationships, and make the most of uncomfortable situations.  In my future, there will be other cities and countries that I am welcomed into and I just hope that my arrivals will come with a little less fanfare and notoriety than the one in Florida.  At least in the beginning.


Rodney Pimental, Alameda.  (Dreams to create a tech start-up and grow the company to help as many people as possible.  He plans to attend UC Berkeley.)

My face turned red as I tried stuffing the entire Harry Potter series into an already bulging suitcase.  Forcing the zipper closed I looked up to see my now barren room.  At only 11 years old, I was about to leave everything I knew behind.

My parents had loved to travel when they were first married and dreamed of showing my younger brother and me what it was like living far beyond our little suburb.  After a decade of saving and planning they quit their jobs, rented out the house and bought our home for the next two years: a tiny sailboat in the Antilles.  On that boat with only my family for company, life became surreal.  Any preconceptions I had of the world were shattered as I experienced everything from the natural beauty of the Caribbean to the chaos of a Turkish bazaar.  Sailing from country to country, ‘school’ became a few math problems and a stroll through a Roman ruin.  As the two years passed I fell in love with the life of adventure and freedom.

Everyone experiences relocation.  From entering high school to moving to an entirely new city, at some point everybody will see a significant change in their environment.  How each person reacts to this change, however, is as varied as the different forms of relocation themselves.  The day I came back to my little suburbia, that freedom I had enjoyed was instantly stripped away.  I was enrolled in the 8th grade and became bound by unfamiliar schedules and structure.  By sophomore year I had adapted to my new environment but still burned for the opportunity to learn about the subjects I was most interested in.  During my travels I developed a knack for video editing, which led to a love for software and computers in general.  With online tutorials I taught myself basic JavaScript but I desperately wanted to pursue this new field further.  The problem was that a coding course didn’t yet exist at my school and I became utterly frustrated.

After lamenting to my parents about my educational woes, I realized how trivial I was being.  Here I was, pointlessly complaining while they hadn’t hesitated to make their staggering dream of seeing the world a reality.  I had been raised with the value of pursuing my aspirations despite how difficult or impractical they may seem but I would never fully understand what this meant until I applied it in my own way.

With these thoughts in mind I went to our Assistant Principal of Academics and plead my case for a coding curriculum.  He handed me a piece of paper, saying that if 20 students signed up he would see what he could do.  After campaigning to every classmate I could find, I came back a week later with a page full of signatures.  Sure enough, what became countless students’ favorite course was available by junior year and my frustration was morphed into something invaluable for the entire school.

Relocation is often associated with negativity.  Not seeing your friends, being in a strange and unfamiliar place, all of these things can seem overwhelming and even scary at first.  But as I had experienced with my family’s boat trip, relocation can have countless hidden blessings as well.  For me personally, it revealed the value in taking a large initiative to impact my life.  By pushing myself to take action, I developed a lasting commitment to challenging the status quo and as an aspiring computer scientist I know this is a quality that will help in my continuing pursuit of innovation to foster change in my life and the world around me.  While the trip itself may have separated me from everything comfortable and familiar, it shaped who I was in a far more powerful and meaningful way.


Katie Densham, Granite Bay.  (Plans to attend Sonoma State.  “I love to try new things.  In college I hope to find more passions by taking different and interesting courses.”

Planes allow people to go on adventures all over the world, however when I stepped on one on the 4th July 2012 or July 5th 2012, depending on whether you are American or English, I felt that my whole world had ended.  I was leaving my comfortable life behind.  My world as I knew it was gone forever.  I had to say goodbye to beloved friends and family that I had grown up with and the life I had imagined for myself.  England was my home; it was where I found my loves, Netball, prawn cocktail crisps and Topshop, all of which aren’t recognized in the proud new country to which I was relocating.  All this was going through my mind as the plane lifted into the air and soared towards the unknown.

I realized during the flight that I was afraid.  I was afraid of being different.  I was afraid that my upbringing would separate me from people as I couldn’t connect over common experiences.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to recreate the life I had in England.  This fear I realized would stop me from achieving my greatest potential so I took it and used my fears as something to motivate me, to prevent my fears from becoming reality.

Descending off the plane after a long twelve hour journey, the realization hit me.  I am striding into the state where I could spend the rest of my life: California.  Growing up, the “American dream” was much talked about; the opportunities and new beginnings that it gave people made it seem like a magical fantasy land.  Numerous songs about the place confirmed this view.  Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” made California into this wild wonderland where the idea of a candy made world would be thought of as a dream.  I never imagined that I would move to a place where the gold rush was founded or where great movie stars live.  Now looking back, I grasp that my opposition to change was childish and that with change comes new experiences, experiences that mold who I will become.

Driving through the new city I was going to be living in, I was in a state of awe.  This land that I had traveled to seemed so vast that I felt small and alien.  Everything seemed to be supersized, roads, houses, cars, even the portions of fries.  Almost everywhere I looked I saw something I’d never seen.  Neighborhoods filled with patriotic decorations, American flags everywhere and on everything.  I felt I had entered a land of extreme patriotism.  I discovered later on that I ironically moved on America’s Independence Day, the celebration of independence from Britain.  I quickly learned that this day was highly important and widely celebrated.  Traditions that were new to me, after a year became traditions to me too.  I adapted to my surroundings and honor cultures and traditions different to my own.

Today I have lived in this beautiful state for nearly four years.  However, I keep my life in England close to my heart.  I have learned during my struggle that I can adapt and fit in, that I can replace my old loves with new ones, a new sport, Discus.  A new snack, Sour Cream and onion “chips” and a new favorite shop, Nordstrom, all of which I wouldn’t have found if I didn’t move.  As I take every step towards the adventure of the unknown I look at all the amazing advantages that I now have.  During the same day I can ski in the morning then drive down the mountain and swim in my own pool.  I can camp in the amazing scenery of Lake Tahoe.  I can surf at Santa Crux.  I can walk amongst trees older than Christianity.  I can go to Disney Land.

I now look to my future in this exciting new world of mine.  I have the opportunity to go to Sonoma State University where I will meet new friends, have new experiences, and carve out my life from the bedrock of relocation.