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“The best things in life are unexpected – because there were no expectations.”  –Eli Khamarov

Last Friday, after two months of waiting under alternate status, I was officially rejected from NSLI-Y’s academic year Chinese program. And you know what? I don’t really care anymore. I had hoped to move up, I hadn’t expected to, and in reality, I didn’t. The more I think about it now, the less I think that it would’ve been the right program for me personally. I loved doing the summer program; I had a full-time host family and a lot of freedom to explore on my own. But most NSLI-Y year students in China live in dorms during the week and have a larger emphasis on classes and studying, from what I understand. Feeling like my NSLI-Y summer experiences outside the classroom helped me just as much as if not more than my class time, I’m not sure NSLI-Y Chinese year would be the program for me. And that’s ok! So I’ll stay in America. I’ll get a job. I’ll find some way to use my Chinese. And I’ll apply for other programs and scholarships to go back.

All of my experiences with high school and with traveling and studying abroad have taught me about how important it is not to confuse hopes and expectations, and not to let your expectations distort your reality. When I went to China last summer, I expected to be able to speak English for the first day while I got settled in. My host parents didn’t speak English. I expected my friend to come visit me, but he couldn’t because he fell and broke his ankle. Accidents happen. I expected to not like Suzhou. Now it’s my second home. I expected to love AP Chemistry. I hated it with a burning passion.

Expectations are funny things. They come from the idea that we know something — at least, that we THINK we know something. We think we can divine the future. We hope for the best, often without preparing for the worst. And we forget that not getting what we want – or what we think we want – isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes it leads to something even better.