Story #2: From Deng Xiao Ping's 863 Program to California Dreamin'


Where are you from?

I grew up in both Shanghai and Beijing. My parents both studied Architecture at Tsinghua in Beijing. My mom worked as an architect for the 航天部 (Chinese NASA) and my father worked for the Ministry of Public Security. Due to my father being situated in Sichuan province, I grew up shuffling between his family, Shanghai, and my mom's family, Beijing.

What were some memories you had of childhood?

I grew up with my dad's side of the family in Shanghai; however, my mom's side who were in Beijing wanted to play a part in raising me as well. I very much enjoyed life in Shanghai and had no intentions of leaving. Therefore, I had an uncle who tricked me onto the train. By the time I realized that the train engine was running, it was too late. I was off to Beijing. I spent the entire time on the train crying because I wanted to be with my grandparents in Shanghai. When this uncle visited again, I hated him so much I hid in the cupboards so I would never see him.

How did you decide what to study in college?

I studied biology at Beijing's Normal University (师范大学). I originally wanted to become a broadcasting major since my teachers thought I was good at it. However my parents had a different idea about what I should study. They have this phrase in Chinese, "学好数理化, 走遍天下都不怕". Translated it means if you study something hard like math, physics, chemistry, or in other words a hard science, there is no challenge that you wouldn't be able to conquer. To appease my parents, I decided to study biology.

How did you arrive on the decision to leave China and come to America?

After graduating from college, I worked as an assistant project manager at a state biology research lab called 科学院生物物理所. It was created under the 863 program by Deng Xiao Ping. We all knew that the latest technological advances were not in China but were in America and so we all had ideas of leaving. It was pretty normal to see waves of us leaving every year to other countries.

How did your friends and family react to your decision to leave your home country and come to America?

My parents supported it. It was the zeitgeist of the time to leave China for a more developed country like America.

How did you eventually move to New Jersey?

I met my husband and got married in Beijing. After marrying, he left China for a PhD in biology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He helped me prepare all the application papers for me to also do a Masters in biology at Rutgers.



How did you decide what to study in college?

I studied Precision engineering (精密工程) at the University of Science and Technology of China (中国科学技术大学 ). It was a 5 year program and by year 4 I was already applying to graduate programs in the United States.

How did you arrive on the decision to leave China and come to America?

I'm the youngest in my family of 4 siblings, 2 older brothers and 1 older sister. One of my brothers left for New Zealand when I was only in high school. I knew very early on that the opportunities in the world were outside of China and so beginning in high school I started working on my English skills.

How did you eventually move to New Jersey?

When I was applying to colleges in my last year of university I applied to numerous schools. I knew that I wanted to study biology for graduate study - eventually I got into UCLA, Rutgers, and Ohio State. UCLA only reduced my tuition by half and gave me no additional stipend. Therefore, it was between Ohio State and Rutgers. Between those two, I decided kind of on a whim to go Rutgers. Packed my bags and moved to New Jersey shortly after.

Where did you first land in America?

I distinctly remember the blue skies of California when I first flew to America. Before embarking on my final journey to New Jersey, I had a layover in SFO. Although I never left the actual airport, I stared at the serene sky and will never forget the beauty of California.


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