When people ask me where I am, I am proud to say, "I am from Huntsville, Alabama y'all!" Even though I didn't start my American life there, Alabama is home to me. It is where I grew up, where I realized why I came to America, and where I found my second family. If you haven't tasted the first appetizer of this grand tasting courses of my life, make sure you check it out here. I talk about how I was as a little boy and why I came to America.
My Alabamian Memories that are sweeter than peach cobbler
Surprisingly enough, I was not sad or lonely after making this life-changing decision to come to America; America was (and still is!) good to me. Even though I had to change my secret plan to become a famous Kpop idol star, I felt like I found a place where I could be who I was. My English was not good at all when I first came to the states, but it did not stop me from showing my feelings.
Austin, Texas was where I began my American life. After graduating middle school there, I moved to Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville is a special place to me. It is a place where I got the first taste of my American dream. When I tell people that I am from Alabama, many people find it pretty surprising. You may say, "Hold up. James, aren't you from Korea?!" But I consider Huntsville, Alabama my second home.
Here are my three favorite feelings and highlights of my tasty American dream life in the South.
Here I am, feeling like a SUPERSTAR and a little bit shocked after receiving my first award for my acting! During high school, I got into theater as a way to follow my dream to be a famous Kpop idol star. I found myself acting in front of judges and performing in character. I was (still am) very insecure about my English, so I never felt confident enough to even think about performing… EVER, especially in English. But I had a stage to perform on and an audience to perform for, and that was everything a wannabe kpop star like me could ask for. When I received this award, I truly felt like I could be more than just an international student from Korea; I actually could become a star.
After getting the award, the author of the monologue that I performed happened to be in town and filmed me right after she announced me as the winner. I had absolutely no idea. You can actually watch my REAL feelings here back in 2011 here!
Here I am, feeling nervous, making my first speech at the Award Ceremony in front of my entire school. I always challenged myself to see what I could accomplish, and making a formal, public speech was something that I thought I would ever have to do. I was so worried about my pronunciations and delivery, so I kept practicing and practicing. But I realized that this was my first chance to showcase who I was to my community. So instead of worrying about the speech, I decided to have fun with it. And I had an amazing time, standing on that platform.
I felt like I was dreaming when I saw people clapping for me and when people came up to me to say how much they enjoyed my story. There were many times that I questioned my decision to come to America, and that moment was when I felt that I was meant to come to this country.
Here I am, feeling humble and grateful, making my speech at my high school graduation. This moment was extremely special to me because I felt like I successfully closed an important chapter of my American dream journey. When I left my family and friends in Korea, I did not think I would stay in America longer than a few months nor I would even go to American schools. But, here I was, standing on the platform, making a graduation speech. So, it was one of those surreal moments that I still get emotional even thinking about it.
Despite many obstacles, I continued to fight to chase my American dream. I had no regrets during my 4 years of walking on that rocky American high school road.
I absolutely adored every single second of my time in Alabama, and I am extremely thankful that I had the chance to grow up in the South. From its incredible food to the spirit of Southern hospitality, Southern culture has become a part of me.
Growing up in the South, I met so many people who embraced my insecurities and my big personality. They made me feel confident about who I was and helped me love myself, a message that I rarely heard and felt growing up in Korea. I am forever grateful for my Southern charming time, but I was ready to chase after my bigger dreams in the bigger city. So, I opened a new chapter of my American dream journey in the greatest, tastiest city in the world, New York City!