I have been living my life with a strong willingness to change. I like to try new things by choice, because I think it enriches my life. When my heart tells me to take a turn, I would usually follow. Although the road has been bumpy at times, I have enjoyed everything on my way.
I was born in 1990 in Hefei, the capital city of Anhui Province in China. I had a happy childhood and hard-working parents. My mother worked in my aunt’s and uncle’s business while my father was a worker for a local public park. Life wasn’t too fancy, but it was nice and peaceful.
I got motion sickness easily when I was little, so I didn’t travel much until I grew up and began college. My university was in another province, about two hours away by train. As the only child of my family, I didn’t want to stay too far away from my parents. And I certainly never thought I would ever leave them behind and go abroad one day to further my studies. Yet, things change.
I went to college for Environmental Science at first. Later, I realized that another program, Environmental Engineering, focused more on the technological side of the subject and provided more hands-on experience, which I believed would be better for my career development in the long run. Without much hesitation, I switched my major in my second year. I figured it was a good change for me, and I didn’t want to pass on the opportunity.
At the end of my sophomore year, my desire to travel abroad was ignited. Before that, I didn’t even think of that as an option, because I was reluctant to stay away from my family. However, my parents encouraged me to study abroad after graduation, see the world, and gain experience. They assured me that it would be good for my personal growth. I was inspired by their thoughts. I knew more opportunities were over the horizon, so I decided to give it a shot. I started to prepare for the GRE test (Graduate Record Examinations) and look up universities in the United States to apply to.
I had two to three months to prepare for the test. My English was really poor at that time. I even had a hard time passing CET-6 (College English Test-6), a national test for the college students in China. And I knew GRE was on a whole different level. I didn’t have much confidence, but I was still ambitious.
I took the test in the fall semester of my third year and failed miserably. As much as it was expected, I was disappointed by my failure. The little confidence that I had was now completely gone.
But before long, I gathered my strength back. I decided I wasn’t ready to give up. I knew with more practice, I could get a better score. So when the spring came, I gave it another try. This time, I had more time to study, but to my dismay, I still didn’t pass with a good enough score to get into any good university in the US. The weight of my second failure sat heavy on my shoulders. I felt defeated.
I started to have second thoughts about my plan to study abroad. Maybe I was not meant to go to the US for further education? Maybe I was not ready to handle the whole going abroad thing? With that doubt in my head, I decided to study for a master’s degree in China instead. I prepared for the Chinese national test for graduate school entrance and took the test six months later.
Like there wasn’t enough failure already, my score on this test wasn’t high enough to get me into my desired graduate school in China, either. I did get an offer to attend graduate school at the same university I was at for my undergraduate studies, but I had little interest in doing so. I didn’t like the program. The research capabilities and the resources available at the school didn’t meet my desire. I didn’t want to settle for less than what I deserved or what I thought I should deserve.
At the dead end of that path, my dream of studying abroad got rekindled. I wanted to receive high-quality education in the US that would lead me to a better future. I wanted to give the GRE test another shot.
To prepare for my third try, I took a year off after my graduation to focus solely on practicing for the test. When I told my parents about my decision, they were supportive. They wanted me to pursue higher education before I entered the workforce. They saw my going to the US as a great opportunity for my personal and professional growth. So, I took the test one last time. If I failed it again, I wasn’t sure what I should do next.
After three tries, I finally passed. My score wasn’t amazing, but it was acceptable enough to study abroad. I felt incredible knowing that all my hard work had paid off. I began applying for universities in the US. I received a strong recommendation letter from the university I graduated from, which I believe helped me get accepted into a university in North Carolina. I was finally going to fulfill my dream.
In 2013, I made the move to North Carolina and started my new life. This was my first time to be away from my home country long term, but I wasn’t afraid. I was ecstatic to begin school to further my studies.
In the fall, I began my first semester in Environmental Engineering. I soon realized that it wasn’t an ideal program for me. Unlike many graduate programs which were research-based, mine was course-based. I felt that I wasn’t learning enough without the focus on research. Also, many of the courses were difficult for me. Since I couldn’t excel in my classes, I came to realize that it wouldn’t be good for my future if I stayed in this program.
During the time that I was struggling, I met a professor at a Chinese church group. She was leading the Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) program at my university. After speaking with her, I decided to switch my major to BAE in the spring of 2014.
I also began a minor in Statistics, a highly ranked program at my school. The more I learnt in Statistics, the more interest I developed in this field and the more promising a future I saw for myself to stay in this area. In 2016, I changed my major a third time to Statistics and kept with it until I graduated in May of 2017.
The switches of majors prolonged my school years, but I didn’t regret a thing. Sometimes you have to be patient and spend time trying out different things before you find your favorite, and the delay might be as well worthwhile.
I was planning to find a job and work in the US for a few years to get more experience before I would decide whether to move back to China or not. My plan changed one more time.
A few months before I graduated, I met a boy, who is now my boyfriend. We got to know each other through friends of friends and instantly clicked. We soon moved in together and he began to talk about his plans of moving back to China. It was not my original intention, but I changed my plan and moved back with him after graduation so that we could stay together. It was not guaranteed that things would work out eventually between us, but even it didn’t, I wouldn’t regret my decision. It was my own choice, and nobody would have to be responsible for the outcome of my choice except myself.
We are now staying with my parents in China, but in February, we will move to Singapore where my boyfriend’s family are. We plan to settle there for the next few years.
I may have failed many times in my life to fulfill my dream and have made a lot of choices that I later found wrong or less than ideal, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, I think that’s how life should be. I believe I have found peace and happiness through my willingness to keep trying and making changes. It is important to try new things and do what you care about. It takes courage to try. It takes strength to not shy away from change in your life. I choose not to run from failures. I let them strengthen me instead.
This story was told to us anonymously by a Chinese girl who had come to the United States to further her education. Determined to study abroad, she took the GRE test three times before she passed. She switched majors several times before she found one that she was comfortable pursuing. The changes in her life were done by choice because she was brave enough to obtain new experiences on her own. She sees the exploration of the world a good thing, and she continues to explore when she’s able to. She graduated in 2017 and moved back to China with her boyfriend. They plan to move to Singapore and settle there as their next stop in life. In her spare time, she runs a WeChat official account and writes inspirational articles to promote self-improvement in others.
This story first touched our hearts on January 18, 2018.
|Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Manqing Jin |