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Ariel Sun

MA Student

New York, NY

It's often easier to make ourselves believe that 'I can't.' But looking back, I have gained immeasurable joy from picking a more bumpy path.

Last year I made an audacious decision: to move to New York to pursue a Master's degree in international relations at NYU. I was born and raised in Nanjing, China, the old capital city southeast of Shanghai where people are not nearly as intense. The whole idea of moving to another country and starting from scratch on my own sounded exciting, yet somewhat disturbing.

Will New York be too big for me to succeed? Am I tough enough? Is it worth the investment to live in the coolest—yet one of the most costly—cities in the world?

As an only child, I've always been close to my parents, and I understood how hard my moving to the other side of the world was going to be for them. One other thing that held me back was that despite people's increasingly liberal mindset, girls with advanced degrees in China are oftentimes not sufficiently appreciated. It deters guys and delays marriage, which is regarded as the most crucial standard to gauge women's personal success. Single females over 30 are often labeled as "leftovers," despite their successful careers and impressive achievements.

However, I had a hunger for excellence and opportunities. My previous international travels also convinced me that vision matters. After backpacking across Europe by myself for the first time when I was 19, I knew that my world would never cease to expand. With this faith in myself, I leaned in.

In New York, I skipped the ostentatious and flashy part of the city, and actively engaged in attending intellectual conferences, panel discussions, networking and events featuring high profile figures. (You gotta love NYC for this!) While the economy is not all rosy, and most internships in my field tend to be unpaid, I'm one of the first international students this year in my program, if not the first, that has secured a paid internship this summer.

It's often easier to make ourselves believe that "I can't." But looking back, I have gained immeasurable joy from picking a more bumpy path. Leaning back, everything seems to get in the way; once we lean in, the whole world will make way for us.