A truly special friendship can be hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
Jessi, a California native, and Jenny, an international student from China, share a friendship like this. If you hear them speak and watch them interact, you would think their friendship began in a sandbox during kindergarten, not during their junior year of high school (both will graduate in 2017). Spend a little more time with them, and the depth of their friendship quickly becomes apparent.
Though she is technically a Californian by birth, Jessi has a rich international heritage, with several family members dispersed throughout the globe, and ethnic roots that extend beyond our nation’s borders. In the past six months alone, she has journeyed to Ecuador and Japan to visit relatives and experience new surroundings. Intercultural roots grow similarly deep for Jenny, who is now in her fifth year of study at ACA and in the U.S. She has fully embraced American culture and the English language, which has opened doors to a plethora of school activities, including Yearbook, Mock Trial, Praise Team, United Media, and International Student Government. Through these activities and more, Jessi and Jenny’s friendship has been built on a solid foundation of common interests and mutual admiration.
They are similarly ambitious, and have similarly impressive travel résumés. They watch Korean dramas and test each other’s martial arts skills. They work seamlessly together, as Jenny bubbles over with ideas, and Jessi molds them into workable plans. Jenny admires Jessi’s down-to-earth nature and her stability, while Jessi marvels at Jenny’s ability to confidently step onstage and address a crowd unrehearsed (that, and her ability to do “absolutely everything”). And with their unique backgrounds, they seemed destined to befriend one another.
When Jessi and Jenny initially met, they did not anticipate having anything in common. Although neither of them can point to a single moment marking the beginning of their friendship, Jenny described one memorable instance at school when Jessi had said, “Hey, yesterday I saw you, and my mom thought you were cute.” At that point, Jenny realized she had a potential new friend.
In years prior, Jenny had tried to distinguish herself in the mainstream school culture, preferring not to cling to the international crowd. She participated in clubs, joined the basketball team, and spoke up in classes. “Mostly, I was forcing myself to open up and immerse in American culture,” Jenny explained. But these efforts did not instantly translate into deep cross-cultural friendships. “Before meeting Jessi, I was never comfortable about having American friends,” Jenny recalled. “It was more like peers instead of friends.” She needed someone with whom she could share her deeper thoughts and past experiences. As for Jessi, finding someone who could match her work ethic and play along with her “stupid games” meant just as much.
“Not only could I go places with her, have fun with her and talk with her, but we also worked well together,” Jessi added. For students as driven as hard-working as these two, the ability to shift between work and play, all the while enjoying each other’s company, was critical. Their first joint undertaking was launching the United Media organization, a diverse group of students devoted to highlighting ACA’s campus culture online.
Soon, their ambitions and goals will take them down separate paths: Jessi to Purdue University, and Jenny to the University of Michigan. Wherever these paths take them, their legacy at ACA will be their example of cross-cultural unity and true friendship.