What are some aspects you miss about your previous life in China?
People. A lot of people. Over here I think the first impression is that there was nobody on the street. They were empty streets. Compared with shanghai, you know, millions and millions of people walking on the street even in the middle of the night. This is one big difference to start with, and um, of course, the food is very different. And I think I also miss a lot of activities during the day or at night. Over here it is a lot quieter during the day ane especially quiet during the night--not much activity happening during the night. UIC is close to downtown but after 7 pm it was really really quiet. I would say I was 2 miles away from downtown Chicago.
What do you remember about the exact day, not the following week or year, but the exact day you arrived in the US? Please describe in detail what you saw, felt, heard, did, ate, whatever you can remember.
It was October 2nd, 2002. I had a layover in Detroit so that made my trip almost 19s of a trip. So by the time we got to O’Hare airport, it was already like 5/6pm. We had to clear the customs, and by the time I got to the dormitories of UIC, it was almost 10 o’clock. Really nothing for me to see, but I remember on the way to UIC, I had big hopes for the United States. So when I looked at my surroundings, the streets were quiet and the buildings...you don’t see many high rise buildings. It was totally different from what I saw on TV or what we see in the movie theatres about the United States, so I was quite disappointed the first day, I would say.
And how did you get from the airport to the dorm?
At the time it was 5 or 6 of us; we got accepted by the UIC MBA program. So they had the school, UIC--had a shuttle bus to pick us up. So it was a small minivan or shuttle bus that picked us at the airport and got to the dormitory. Even the dormitory is, I would say, smaller than we expected, and older than we expected. Sorry, a lot of negative things. But we were holding our hopes really high just because a lot of TV shows that we had seen were quite misleading, I would say, yeah.
And you said this was...you and the group of people were there for an MBA program.
So how old were you, and what were the people on the shuttle bus with you, like, what do you remember about that.
I was the oldest one in the group. I was 32 in 2002 when I got here and a lot of them were in the high 20s, like 27/28. The youngest one I think was 25. So we had good jobs in Shanghai and we were accepted by the MBA program--supposed to be a really good program for us, you know, if we want to continue to move up in our careers. It is really helpful if you can get an MBA degree in the United States.
Did you quickly find yourself feeling at home? Did you find any communities or spaces in the US that made you feel at home?
Great question. I think for the girls...it was easier to adapt to the environment. But still, because we all had a good job and a family there back in China so it took us at least, I would say, the first 3/4 months were pretty difficult to adjust. But a lot of the boys, I mean its a long story but to make it short, a lot of the boys in the group--they all went back after we graduated. But most of the girls decided to stay. ‘Cause you know the US is a country (that) really it takes time for us to fall in love with. Because you know it does have a good system, a good environment, and also the freedom that I really enjoyed. I think it took at least 3 or 5 months to get used to it and finally fall in love with this country.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.