From American Dream to Homecoming: A Personal Journey


In this personal journey, I share my experience of chasing the American Dream, only to find that reality had a different plan for me. From leaving my home in the UK to studying in California, I encountered a series of unexpected twists and turns that ultimately led me back to where it all began.

A Dream Takes Flight

My parents, immigrants from Taiwan and Malaysia, had relocated to England in pursuit of a better life. Yet, I had a different dream – the American Dream. I was determined to make it in California, despite the reluctance of my family.

The Pursuit of Higher Education

I applied to renowned U.S. universities I’d seen in movies, studying relentlessly for the SATs. The admissions process was far from what I’d imagined, with interviews in coffee shops and hotel lobbies. The uncertainty of acceptance kept me from checking the online application portal.

An Unexpected Turn

In an unforeseen twist, UCLA mistakenly sent out housing emails to applicants, including me. The call confirming my acceptance left me in shock, and after a week of contemplation, my parents reluctantly agreed to let me embark on this costly adventure.

The Silver Screen Campus

UCLA’s campus was a pristine spectacle, so picturesque it felt like a movie set. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s alma mater to Legally Blonde’s Harvard, it was a place where fiction and reality blurred.

Sorority Trials

I attempted to join a sorority, but the formal rituals and earnest singing didn’t align with my sense of humor. It became clear that I didn’t quite fit in.

Fraternity Living

I ended up living in a fraternity house during the summer, a decision marked by sticky floors and frequent trips to the student union for a cleaner bathroom.

The Pursuit of ‘Brand You’

In California, everyone was busy networking and branding themselves. Some students wore suits daily, always ready for a potential job interview. Amid these efforts, I began to mentally distance myself from the American Dream.

Reality Check in LA

Los Angeles, a city filled with aspiring stars and a relentless pursuit of success, challenged my sense of belonging. It was transactional, and I started questioning if it was truly where I wanted to be.

Coming Home

After graduation, I had a grace period, but I opted to return to the UK. The fear of waking up in my teenage bedroom, thinking the past few years had been a dream, was too real. I missed California but found solace in the wit and irreverence of my British roots.

A New Path

Back in the UK, I applied to graduate schools. Accepting an offer from the London School of Economics felt like continuing a family legacy. It was no longer just about my own dreams, American or otherwise.

The Lure of What Could Have Been

Last year, I returned to the U.S. for a classmate’s wedding, where she had met her husband during her Ph.D. program. The question of “what could have been” lingered, but I was content with my path back home.


While I’ve found my place in the UK, there’s still something that draws me back to the teenage dream of California. As I prepare for a short trip to the States, I realize that some dreams are hard to shake.

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