Editor’s note: This story was written by a high school student in Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Summer Youth Leadership Program. This story is part of a special back-to-school issue.
By Maggie Huang
I remember when we first announced that we were emigrating to the United States. Everyone was congratulating us, and we were considered the lucky ones. They told us that we’ll soon be able to live in a country with high living standards and many new opportunities waiting to be explored. But in reality, are we really lucky?
My parents belonged to the middle class back in China. They had stable, well-paying jobs that they enjoyed. They had the training and degrees necessary for their occupations. However, when we emigrated to the United States, my parents gave up their jobs and had to start all over.
Their degrees and training are not applicable in the United States. They are no different from people with only a high school diploma. Because of their language deficiency, they have to work extremely hard for long continuous hours because of the limited opportunities that are available to them.
The language deficiency also forced them to be dependent on translators like me because without us, they cannot communicate very well. Moreover, we also faced financial problems when deciding to buy a house. These are struggles we never encountered before. The relaxed life in China was instantly switched to a busy, exhausting life in the United States. Maybe the dream of seeking for better opportunities doesn’t actually exist.
As for young adults like me, we also have to deal with hardships. Because of our strong accents, we are frequently derided by others and sometimes even excluded. We are considered as outsiders because we can’t communicate with others in perfect English.
In school, we have to work extra hard compared to others, and our hard work is often neglected because society carries the perception that Asians are naturally smart.
What they do not recognize is that we spend twice as much time just to catch up and to meet the basic standards. Failure is never an option for us because we carry the burden of hope, the hope for us to excel and eventually give a better life to our parents, who sacrificed so much for us.
Furthermore, we often force ourselves to do things that we don’t enjoy at all or make decisions we completely dislike. We have to give up our dreams because we’re too afraid to pursue them in this unpredictable world. All we care about is how to eliminate the chance of failing and ultimately please our parents by fulfilling their hopes.
Are we really lucky, or is it just an illusion that was established back in the post-WWII-era? Would my success in China be less significant compared to my success in the United States? These are questions that will never be answered with absolute certainty. ♦