“My very first impression was American people were very friendly and some have great sense of humor. They were not afraid to smile, even to strangers. In Hong Kong, you don't do that. People would think you are crazy or onto something.” – Alice Eng
My mom, Alice Eng, always wanted to see what life was like beyond the small island of Hong Kong, where she was born and raised. She was curious about life beyond the ocean, itching to travel. My mom’s dreams finally came true when she immigrated to the US to pursue a college education, making the leap in July of 1974.
My mom says her first impression of American people was they were very friendly and had a great sense of humor. They weren’t afraid to smile, even to strangers, in deep contrast with Hong Kong, where she says someone would think you were crazy for doing that. Even when my mom landed at JFK airport, she got help right away from a friendly family. She remembers a father telling his two daughters to help her with luggage. My mom thinks she probably looked lost and confused.
She made her way to a university in Alabama where she would spend the next four years. My mom recalls the first few days were exciting. She made a lot of new friends from all over the world – which was quite a change because in Hong Kong, all of her friends were Chinese. My mom also studied English so it helped her to adjust quickly in the US. She says there were also quite a few students from Hong Kong whom she befriended. She got a taste of home, eating Chinese food twice a week at a restaurant where she worked part-time.
Her new adventures did leave her feeling a little homesick. In those days, my mom says communication by phone was not easy and since she was on a budget, she wouldn’t be able to fly home to see her parents anytime soon. She only saved up enough for her first year of study. Looking back, my mom says she feels more comfortable living in the US than in Hong Kong. The wide open spaces here make her feel free.