For this project, I chose to interview my father, who is a first generation Chinese immigrant who came to the United States in 1992 with my mother and my sister. It was interesting to hear about his experiences as an immigrant when he first moved to the States, as I don’t hear him talk about them very often. My favorite part about this project was being able to interview my dad and ask him about what immigrating here was like, and because of this I think I was able to appreciate him and the struggles he faced more.
Why did you move to America?
For two purposes- one is for more education. Number two is for freedom.
Can you elaborate?
Yes. I think education is better here, so I always wanted to get more training, a better education, in medicine. The second one is in 1989, on June 4th, after the Tiananmen Square event, after the democratic movement was cracked down, we were all kind of depressed, and lost hope in China, and that’s why America is like a light of freedom. We just want to get out from over there, and come here, to have an experience of democracy.
What is your American Dream?
My American Dream? [Long pause.] I think my American Dream is, being able to be a physician again because I enjoy being a doctor so much, and to be kind of an independent person who can also contribute to the community and country after my hard work.
What are some difficulties that you faced when you first moved here?
Yeah, there are lots of difficulties. I have a language barrier- I couldn’t speak English as fluently as I can now, and financial difficulty, because we didn’t have money at all. Only maybe a few hundred dollars and we just carried two suitcases, so financially it was very difficult. I had my first daughter, I had to raise my child, and I didn’t have an income. We [your mother and I] were both just students and we had to pay tuition, so that’s why we had to work on the weekends or in the evening in order to make some money to support the family and for the tuition too, so financially it was very difficult. Also I had a difficulty to learn a new culture, so we had culture shock and had to gradually be Americanized. I think another difficulty is studying was not easy because of the language barrier and it wasn’t very efficient studying English, so I studied a much longer time than American students. So I had to study harder and work harder.
How has your life changed since you moved here?
I think after I constantly worked for 24 years, my life changed a lot. Number one, I became a surgeon again. Number two I also became part of the upper middle class and also I am Americanized and understand democracy, the democratic system, better, and I also learned how to help people I don’t know, not just help family or friends. I’m willing to volunteer and do mission work and help a lot of people I don’t know, and I have, of course, more money and can enjoy life more. I have a nice car and a big house.
What advice would you give to other immigrants?
I think when you face our difficulties, you just have to study hard, work hard, make your own effort to achieve your goal. You have to stay with your goal, and you cannot cut corners or take the easy way, you just have to go step by step- learn the language, learn the culture, learn the system, and study hard and then find a good job you like to do, and you always have to do your best to always try and try. Some people might reject you for whatever reason, sometimes it could be because you’re an immigrant, because you have a language barrier, or sometimes because of your skin or other reasons, people just don’t like you, but you should not be disappointed. You just have to be brave and learn how to sell yourself, how to prove you’re great, that you’re better than other people and that you can do a very good job, and you have to prove yourself again and again, not just one time like other Americans.