Harry Li, “The Mayor of SPM”, Shares Advice on Making American Friends | EDUBOSTON

Harry Li, “The Mayor of SPM”, Shares Advice on Making American Friends

Monday, Apr 16, 2018

Many international students are shy and quiet and reluctant to talk with their American classmates. That is most certainly not the case with Hang “Harry” Li, a 9th grader at Saint Peter Marian High School in Worcester, Massachusetts. His teachers say he is a social butterfly that everyone in the school knows. His ESL teacher, Gemma Goranson, describes him as “the mayor of SPM.”  In many ways, Harry is a model of successful adjustment.

What is Harry’s secret?  To start, he is curious, open-minded, sincere, and outgoing. He also emits friendliness and positivity. His technological know-how, interesting hobbies, and strong fashion sense don’t hurt either. 

“I have a lot of American friends,” he says. “We talk about fashion -- we all like the fashion brand Supreme, and we talk about technology and photography.”

Harry says he has met a lot of people and made friends through his involvement with the yearbook and other clubs and activities. One of his closer friends, a senior (12th grader), was the yearbook photographer, and they met when Harry, himself an avid photographer, joined the Yearbook Club and they started sharing photography tips.  

Harry also does photography for the Drama Club, ran indoor track this winter, and started a Drone Club in his first semester at SPM. He’s taking a break from some of the clubs and sports this quarter to focus more on his studies, but he’s looking forward to getting more involved in the Drama Club next year and trying some acting.  Meanwhile, he still goes bowling almost every weekend.

“I like to try new things,” he explains, and that, in essence, seems to be the key to his successful adjustment to his new home. 

Among his advice to other international students for making friends, he says,“You can talk to everyone here. Don’t stay quiet. Relax, you don’t have to be nervous. Just talk!  Find the same hobby.“

He adds that he has learned a lot from his host family too. “They keep explaining to me. You can ask – don’t be embarrassed. People will explain everything here. Let people!”  Besides everyday information on American life and culture, from his host family he has learned to make a birthday cake, make fried chicken, roast a Thanksgiving turkey, paint furniture, and shovel snow, which he actually enjoys. He has also discovered a love of buffalo wings and ghost pepper hot sauce.

True, he has had ups and downs in his academics this first year, and he says history and theology have been his most difficult classes, but he is on a roll now that he has developed better study habits and a routine, going to bed early and waking up early in the morning (at 4 AM!) to review his notes and study before school, because that is when his mind is fresher and he is better able to focus and remember. He appreciates his host family’s help with the change in his habits, saying that their decision to shut down the WiFi after 9:30 has really made a difference. 

The most important thing he has learned?   “A lot of things about life.”

His proudest accomplishment?  He has made a lot of progress in school and improved his grades.   

Most important advice for new international students?  “Just don’t be quiet!”