Yunyan Mo: An Immigrant’s Perspective

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Yunyan Mo: An Immigrant’s Perspective

Junior Yunyan Mo with her mom and aunt when she first arrived in the US.

Junior Yunyan Mo with her mom and aunt when she first arrived in the US.

Junior Yunyan Mo with her mom and aunt when she first arrived in the US.

Junior Yunyan Mo with her mom and aunt when she first arrived in the US.

By Divitya Vakil, News Editor

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In the midst of the most diverse school in Illinois, many students who are immigrants walk among us. Junior Yunyan Mo is one of many students born in a different country.

Mo grew up in Zhaoqing, China for the majority of her life. Her school days lasted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and she endured a rigorous curriculum daily, all in preparation for the college placement test.

“People always said that American schools are much easier than in China. It’s kind of true,” Mo said. “I don’t know which is better, but the Chinese school is just rigorous. They force you to do all these things there; you have to train for the college placement test. The colleges don’t even look at your extracurriculars. Your score determines what college you will go to, and there’s no way around it. Everyone was so stressed about these things. It’s as if your whole life is preparation for this exam.”

Mo had family members living in Chicago, which is what prompted her family to choose to immigrate here over any other place. She currently resides in Lincolnwood and graduated from Lincoln Hall Middle School.

“My aunt has been here for a long time. My parents thought it would be a waste if we did not take the opportunity to come over here. The biggest thing is education and how America has much better universities and more choices,” Mo said. “My parents say that whether I like it or not, [America] gives you more choices down the road. If we were to stay in China, [my choices] would be more limited. It was less for [my parents] and more for us, the kids.”

Though Mo does not have any siblings, her cousin, sophomore Dongming Liu, resides with her family. Liu’s parents chose to stay in China but wanted Liu to have more opportunities.

“We have changed our lives a lot. We don’t have a lot of homework to do. We have more time for us to be involved in different activities and have an opportunity to know different people and culture around the world,” Liu said. “From a learning perspective, it was a good decision to move here. I can have a good education here and know more people from different places. I won’t have as much pressure as Chinese students.”

Mo started off Niles West as a freshman in ELL English. After just one semester, she was able to transfer out into Freshman Honors English. Her course load this year is heavy with APs, including SIRS, GAW, AP Chemistry, and AP United States History; because of the demanding schedule, she does not have a lunch period.

Like most other juniors, everything college-related is on Mo’s mind. In China, most kids are focused on academics and do not participate in any extracurricular activities. Mo adapted well to the American school experience, as she participates in Go Green Club, Astronomy Club, and the swim team.

“If I was in China, I would not be thinking about what I would do in the future. I would just focus on taking the exam. My life would be much simpler,” Mo said. “But here there’s always the question of what you like, what do you do in your free time, and how do you impress your college. There are a lot more things to consider.”

A lot of people do not realize that Mo lived most of her life in China.

“I didn’t even know she was an immigrant,” junior Kassandra Marin said. “Her English was good, but she did have an accent. She is a very nice person, friendly and kind to everyone.”

Mo experiences the same stress, pressures, and desire to succeed that we all have inside of us, but she has the advantage of an international perspective. Though she hasn’t been here as long as many of students at West, she walks through the halls and toward a bright future.