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How Loneliness Led to Language Skills

By Yuchen “Leo” Shi, Grade 11
I believe that everyone has felt loneliness before, especially if you are a foreign student like me. However, for me, loneliness has pushed me to achieve success.
Today, I am going to share how the feeling of loneliness has enabled me to improve myself in the long run, how I took a tough situation and came out better for it.
In the summer of 2016, I made the biggest decision ever in my life: to go to school in Canada. What that meant to me was leaving my hometown, my family and all my friends. Basically, leaving everything that I had in order to start a new life in Canada. At that particular time, my English was not very good. I couldn’t even figure out how to ask for water on the airplane. So, you can imagine what was going to happen at an English school. But luckily, I had a brother who also didn’t speak English.
I can still clearly remember the day when I arrived at the school. It was in a small town 30 minutes outside of Ottawa. At that point, the only thing I could really say was, “Sorry!” As I didn’t understand and could not communicate, I just followed the crowd and did what others were doing. And I felt like everyone was staring at me all the time, thinking I was a weirdo. I didn’t speak English, so no one was able to talk to me.
My first month of school was the toughest, every day I stayed in my room. I was scared to go out and scared to talk to people even if I did want to. I was scared if someone asked me anything, and I didn’t completely understand, they would make fun of me. However, I started to study English as hard as I could. I gave up watching my favourite Chinese show and started listening to English news. I hated my life without friends. I couldn’t talk to anyone about my difficulties and I did
everything by myself. This sense of loneliness forced me to work harder. If I didn’t, I would have no friends.
Luckily, I learned really fast, I was able to have a conversation with my classmates after the first month. I was really happy about it, because I was able to make friends that I could actually share my story with. Even now, I can still remember my first ever “English” friend. I look back on this whole thing now and realize that if I had even one person or friend that spoke my language, I would not have learned English as quickly as I did. It was due to the sensation of being lonely that I was forced to learn a new language and fully immerse myself into the culture.
Since I came to Stanstead, I have seen people who like to hang out with friends that speak the same language as them. I often do it too. Who doesn’t prefer to speak a language that they are more fluent with? However, if people don’t step out of their comfort zone, they are never going to improve. I believe that at Stanstead, every second language student can speak English better than I did when I first came to Canada. So there is no reason why you should ever feel shy to speak English. Put some pressure on yourself and try to speak with people who don’t speak the same language as you. You will discover the beauty of everyone and have way more friends in the end.
If there is one thing that I can tell you guys, being lonely sucks. But sometimes it can also help you to improve yourself. Turn the feeling of loneliness into something positive, don’t always think about being sad, use it as motivation to improve yourself and try new things.