Bumpy roads, unpredictable, yet predictable, showers of rain, flooded public restrooms, and house directions that consist of “turn left after the big mango tree” or “keep following the road til you see the dumpsters:” this is the island of Saipan. My high school experience revolved around living on this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and I attribute a lot of what I have accomplished to living
on Saipan. Everything I did and learned was a result of the fact that I lived in the tropics: the limitations and unique set of opportunities that it had to offer.
A lot of people do not understand that as beautiful and as naturally inviting Saipan is, there is not much to do; the island is, after all, only 47 square miles in size. Saipan high school students lack opportunities and traditional experiences that American high school students enjoy regularly. Schools are too small to have homecoming dances and there is not a single football stadium to be found. However, as frustrating as this might appear for the typical adolescent, these limitations forced me to appreciate other aspects of living on Saipan.
As nerdy as this may sound, these present limitations forced me to focus on my academics and extracurricular activities. I wasn't going out to the homecoming game; I was going home to work on my paper. I wasn't going to go to the mall to spend money; I was going to the gym to practice volleyball. I wasn't spending the weekend going to an amusement park; I was playing in a three-day beach volleyball tournament. The fact that Saipan has very little to offer in respect to recreational activities and the industrial perks indigenous to more productive places has forced me to focus more on my school work and more on my athletic career. I have been able to focus more attention on a few specific opportunities, rather than spending my time on too many opportunities at once.
Although there are not that many opportunities here on Saipan, there are some very unique opportunities. I never got the typical, Western high school experience, but I did go through something quite different and unique. I had the chance to play for the CNMI Women's National Soccer Team and competed in Taiwan, Guam, and Japan. I had the opportunity to play in an Olympic Qualifier for beach volleyball, representing the CNMI when I played against national teams from Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Guam. I had the opportunity to grow up in a multicultural community, practically knowing everyone and vice-versa. From that experience, I truly understood the importance of acceptance and diversity. I have met coaches from professional soccer teams in Hong Kong, played against professional volleyball players from Japan, Korea, and the U.S., and grew up living in a closely knit community. These are unique opportunities that Saipan has given me the chance to experience and take advantage of.
The decisions I have made in the past and the decisions I will make in the future are a result of living on an island. Saipan has taught me to take advantage of opportunities, but instead of doing everything at once, focus and prioritize. This island has also taught me the importance of diversity and the uniqueness of each culture represented here. How I chose my majors and colleges will follow accordingly – I will focus on classes and opportunities that matter most to me, and although there might be a lot to take advantage of, I'm going to focus on what is most important for me. I will also use my knowledge and experience of growing up in an international, culturally diverse environment to accept others. I will share my culture, as well as welcoming others to share theirs too. My Saipan high school experience is something very few have the chance to go through, which is why I hold it to be my most unique and important experience in general.