My name is Stephen.

I like to write and tweet.

I work, code and photograph.

Learn more about me and my blog.

10 Years Ago

This is my version of the American Dream. In 2008, I came to the United States of America. In 2018, I graduated from Stanford. In between, I learned how to speak English, how to code, and more importantly, how to be a better person.

Today is a special day for my family. It marks the 10th year since we came to this magical land of opportunities called the U.S. of A, so I want to write a little reflection.

I vividly remembered the ride from SFO to my uncle's house in Oakland. I was impressed by the wide highway and the beautiful Bay Bridge. For a 13-year-old who hasn't traveled abroad before, I was excited.

My first visit to Stanford in 2008, when it was only a dream.

However, the first 24 months were the toughest in my life. I didn't speak any English. I didn't have anyone to rely on. Luckily, I was still early in my language development stage. Thanks to my patient ESL teacher and free Google Translate, I became fluent in conversational English in two years.

I pushed myself to meet as many people as I can to improve my English, although I was shy at heart. The awesome people I got to know opened the door to programming and that led to a career in software engineering. In hindsight, I didn't know any of these. I was just an ambitious kid who wanted a place in society.

Looking back, these two years shaped the way I looked at the world. It taught me to be strong and independent - no obstacles were too large to overcome. It gave me a more appreciate mindset and a wider perspective.

Still, I made a lot of mistakes. In my teenage years, I cared too much about myself and ignored the feelings of others. I thought I was smart and came off as arrogant. If I could go back, I would've done many things differently, but no one is perfect.

To all my classmates from middle school who I am friends with on FB, thanks for bearing with my broken English. To all my friends from high school, thanks for including me in your friend groups. To everyone who I met through building apps, you are the rockstar that encouraged me to learn and grow. And everyone at Stanford, you are the most brilliant yet humble people, each with your own amazing story. I'm thankful to have y'all as friends.

My parents are the real heroes. They usually don't post on WeChat. (For the uninitiated, it's the platform everyone is on in China.) But the day after Stanford graduation, they did. I knew they were proud of me, but I was even more proud of them. I will be forever thankful for all the sacrifices they made. I can never imagine how tough it is coming to a new country with a language barrier in their 40s. Yet, they did it.

Dream came true. My Stanford graduation in 2018.

Many people discount the element of luck in life. And I want to fully acknowledge I've been lucky every step of the way. The biggest lesson I take away from this trip down memory lane is to create your own luck - work as hard as can so you can be in the position to get lucky.

I will end this with a quote from my idol Steve Jobs: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference."