By Hugh Yang | Lambda Phi Epsilon
My parents grew up in the rural areas of China, where they spent most of their time doing agricultural work. Due to the lack of help on the farms, they gave up their education in order to cultivate crops and survive with food. Their lack of education allowed them to realize the importance of school. In order to ensure the dream of education and an improvement of lifestyle, they once again took another sacrifice, and abandoned their country, family, and culture. Their sacrifice was to ensure that my sister and I can be born in the United States, a land of opportunity and prosperity.
In the United States, my parents’ lack of education forbade them to communicate with people around them, forcing them to work in sweatshops and Chinese restaurants. Their jobs require them to work six days a week, 13 hard working hours a day. Their dedication and work took away the precious family bonding time that I never had. Since the age of 10, I had to carry the responsibility of taking care of my younger sister and writing family checks to pay off our monthly bills. As other kids left school at 3pm and headed towards the park, I had to go and pick up my sister and prepare dinner.
Although I didn’t have a privileged childhood like all of my other friends, my experiences allowed me to become a person of responsibility and independence. Whenever my parents were home, they spent most of the time lecturing my sister and me about how important it was to have a proper education and to excel in our academics.
In order to motivate me to work harder, my dad would often drag me to work at the restaurant during the summer. I was able to see with my own eyes how hard my dad labored. Due to the constant flow of customers, my father had to stand in front of the stove on a 90-degree summer day for 13 hours cooking and flipping pans. My father stood in the same exact spot preparing orders for so many years that the tiles of which he stands on is imprinted with the outline of his shoes. His hard work and dedication has been a constant motivation for me to work hard in school and to be able to financially sustain myself and lift off as much of a burden as possible.
As I came to Syracuse, I didn’t notice much difference in my way of life given the past experiences I had being independent. I blended in well and focused heavily on school. As the first person in my family to go college, I knew I had to work twice as hard to get half as far as my peers. Therefore, I focused solely on school work in my first year of college to set a good foundation on my academics. Later on I was fortunate enough to find a paid internship during the summer of my freshman year that allowed me to be able to financially support myself.
In our family, we don’t say “I’m proud of you,” because my parents believe that it will make us feel as if we have reached our goal. They taught us that success should reach no end and we should constantly strive for a better life. In our family, we never say “I love you” either, because my parent’s love were expressed as soon as they sacrificed their education, culture, and country for me to have a better life. Their love was in their courageous act of coming to America and working long hours. However, we say “You can do better,” so that we can continue to stay motivated and excel far beyond our limits. I am thankful of my parents for being my role models in life and teaching me the importance of education.