Juniper Writing Institute: A Life-Changing Experience

photo by flickr user LMRitchie

photo by flickr user LMRitchie

I have been writing for more than half of my lifetime, but because my family moved to the US four years ago, I had to start over. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling to have to hold back something you know you have due to language barrier. For a long time, I begged life for a group of people to share the worlds I created with my pen and soul, but at the same time I worried that I wasn’t good enough to have one. As an international student, I felt that I’m locked, and buried alive.

That was why I was surprised to be accepted by Juniper Writing Institute. I knew this nine-day trip to UMass would greatly influence my life (cliché!), but really, I didn’t expect to receive so much from it.

After spending two months doing a writing sample but changing my mind last minute, flying across the whole country at night on my own with a crying baby on the plane, arriving six hours early and forcing myself to swallow a turkey sandwich that had too much mustard, how can anything be more satisfying and exciting than realizing that I finally met a group of people just like me? “What kind of writing do you do?” is how we start our conversation. Sitting under the shade of the fancy chapel and reading each other our own writings is how we relax. Snapping with big smiles when we hear juicy ideas get read out loud is how we enjoy life and appreciate our talent. I found “my people” for the first time, and even though we were only together for nine days, I found where I belong.

What I love the most was the writing workshop–we discussed each person’s writing sample for 45 minutes. For me, not only did I see many special and unique ideas and styles of writing, but also, I experienced something that changed my view on my own writing. My pod (our small group of twelve people, where I made great friends) surprised me by commenting that I describe things in an uncommon way. I never realized that combining writing style in my first language with English in fact resulted in something different and strong. Through this workshop, I found my strength and self-confidence to write more and better.

One of the most important things I realized from the experience with Juniper is that, a group like the Juniper writers is where I want to belong for the rest of my life. The vitality, intelligent, and possibilities within this group is what I was looking for all my life. Juniper Writing Institute helps me clarified my goal for the future. As young writers, we look at the same world but see differently and argue different sides–the energy from the crashes between angles is what pushes the future forward.

-Wenqing Z., 12th grade


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