September 15 2014
Personal Essay I was two years old when I came to America. Growing up I was occasionally reminded that I am an immigrant, which the thought itself surprised me. I consider myself to be American, having been raised in America most of my life. I have no accent and English is my first language. My parents speak Singhalese at home and I understand it very well, I just never learned to speak fluently. My parents tried to raise me with Sri Lankan expectations but I would usually fall short on them. My parents have always expected me to do well in school. In Sri Lanka, education is free but very competitive. Only the top students or students whose parents are wealthy go on to college. Children in Sri Lankan always have this pressure of having to be the best in their class in order to succeed. Lower class families would save up whatever money they could to hire tutors for their children. Most kids have housework or have jobs in order to help their families on top of doing well in school. My mother told me about how her aunt was the reason she was able to get into college and later medical school. My great aunt cared for my mother enormously and she saw the potential in my mother to become a doctor. My mother’s family knew that my mother wanted to be a doctor and my great aunt took my mother into her home. My great aunt worked multiple jobs to get enough money to pay for a tutor. My great aunt was very strict with my mother as she had to come home straight from school and study until she went to bed. My great aunt would also turn away my mother’s friends telling them that my mother was practicing for tests. My mother told me she wanted me to work as hard as she did so I could be successful.
I had learned since elementary school that I could not ask my parents for help about my school work. My parents were busy most of the time as my mother was studying to become a US certified doctor and my father was at work most of the time. When I was able to ask them questions my mother would explain the problem to me in a confusing way and after an hour she would say, “Ask your teacher tomorrow.” I asked my father a question about my homework only once. I was in the fourth grade and I had some trouble with my division homework. I was sitting on the floor doing it on the coffee table when my dad walked in.
At the time my father was redoing the floor on our upstairs bathroom and a family friend was working on it and my dad just came back from getting some supplies. He looked at me and asked me how I was doing; I told him I had some trouble with a division problem and he actually came over to look at it. The problem was sixty five divided by seven; he asked me “How many times does seven go into sixty-three?” I would try to figure it out using my fingers but my father would yell at me to stop using my fingers and would repeat “How many times does seven go into sixty-three?” at increasing volumes until he was yelling.
I ended up sobbing as I did not know it by heart and my father slammed his hands on the coffee table and told me to stop crying and figure out the problem. By then my mother came down as she heard my father yelling. My father yelled at her saying how he knew multiplication and division at my