I am a very proud mother today, October 23rd, 2015. My third child, Theo, has prepared all on his own his college application essay, and just sent it to me to read. Please show it to your children, if they have any worries about coming to the United States :

This is the handbook that I wish someone had given me when I moved from France to California at the age of 17. It provides an insight into my experience but also how I approached this transition.

Theo’s Handbook for Foreign Students

1. Be optimistic. Changing countries can be tough and it’s normal to feel lost, but you need to realize the opportunities this gives you. If you approach the transition with a positive outlook, the experience will be more rewarding.

2. Focus to get rid of the language barrier. This wasn’t as difficult for me since I already spoke English; however, there were some major adjustments I needed. To this day I refuse to say the word “gnarly”.

3. Do not be overly defensive (or aggressive) about your nationality. As a French man I am expected to adore France. This might seem obvious but listing how France is better than America to your American classmates is not a good way to make friends. Americans will not stop arguing until you surrender to their patriotism.

4. Take an interest in their hobbies. They will accept you more easily if you approach them in a spirit of friendship on familiar grounds. I became a passionate football fan. I started watching the games at my classmate’s house and to this day, Sundays are reserved for football. I now adore football and believe the Rams will have a big year.

5. Try new things. New places mean new opportunities. Take advantage of the new resources around you and better yourself. For me this was mock trial. Our school was part of a regional competition for mock trial and it was one of the greatest intellectual experiences I have ever had. I had the difficult role of being the actual criminal, but through extensive research and thorough knowledge of my character, I was acquitted both times.

6. Try to better yourself. This is a fresh start so you can be anyone you want. Represent the best version of yourself and push back your boundaries. I personally had to readjust my attitude. No matter how strange it appeared, I immersed myself in whatever was presented to me instead of resisting new ideas. My first experience of this was last year when we had an English project about “A Midsummer’s Nights Dream” and we had to translate the play into a ballet. I truly tried to make the best out of the experience and in the end, I was happy when a similar project came up at the start of this year.

7. Create deep relationships. This one was probably the hardest for me. For the first few months living in California, I irrationally believed I was betraying my friends back in France. I had left the people who I grew up with, who I loved and who loved me. I couldn’t see myself replacing them until one day I realized I didn’t have to. I could have both and I started opening myself up. I now have some of my best friends here who know me just as well as the ones in France.

8. Live one day at a time. Everything might not be perfect all the time, but you should focus on your current happiness instead of worrying about the future. Before you know it, a year will have passed and you will love your new life. You will have great friends and countless memories you will bring to college. You will feel complete and loved by your friends who were still strangers not long ago. All you need to do for this to happen is to focus on your current happiness. Abraham Lincoln, my second favorite politician of all time, once said “Folks are usually as happy as they make their minds up to be,” so please, believe that you are happy.