My name is James, and I’m the co-founder of Commuting Neural Nets. Our first story is not about me or our brand. It’s about my parents.
Sean Hu 胡先祥 and Ai Ling Guan 管爱玲 were born in China, 1963, in Hubei and Shandong provinces, respectively. My father, Sean, grew up in an extremely rural environment; he used to get up extra early before elementary school to let the cows out to pasture. My mother, Ai Ling, grew up in not quite as pastoral a setting, but still walked miles and miles by foot to school every day. Needless to say, a big city like Beijing seemed out of reach.
My father saw the value of education and worked hard, and eventually became the first person in his village - ever - to attend university. And after graduation, he earned an opportunity to pursue graduate study in Beijing. My mother, too, saw the value of education, but could not afford university in Shandong. So she moved to Beijing to work for a few years prior, which is when she met my father. After graduation, they started living together and working in Beijing. My father was a computer scientist, and my mother a petroleum engineer and consultant.
One day in the late 1980’s, a group of traveling businessmen from Singapore visited my father’s company and, upon a quick conversation, spontaneously asked if he wanted to go work for them in Singapore. Always an adventurous soul, my father went. He worked there for about a year, making a much higher salary there then in Beijing. He returned to Beijing to marry my mother, and together the two of them moved to Singapore.
Then June 4th, 1989 happened. My mother urged the two of them to take Taiwanese passports, offered by the Taiwan embassy in Singapore.
With home in China no longer an option, my parents had nowhere to go but onwards. My father applied for and was accepted into a graduate study program at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, studying computer science. He and my mom lived and worked there for several years, and together brought my sister and myself into the world (Montreal and Toronto, respectively – Canada pride!).
Around this time, my father met a Chinese woman at his workplace who had just come back from a trip to the U.S. – Silicon Valley specifically. “The tech companies will pay to fly you out there for a job interview! Silicon Valley is where the money is at!” she could barely contain her excitement.
And so the search began. My father began reaching out to companies, and soon after, took a solo trip to Silicon Valley. Our family had no money, so he crashed on friend’s couches, jumping from interview to interview in a borrowed minivan. Meanwhile, my mom waited patiently at home in Toronto with an infant and a toddler.
And then - my father landed a job! He called my mom via a payphone to tell her the good news, and that we had finally arrived at our destination: America, the promised land of opportunity.
We moved to Silicon Valley in 1995.
My father worked on an H-1B visa for 2 years before getting a Green Card for the whole family. 5 years later, we became U.S. citizens.
It would be 10 years since leaving for Singapore that my parents were able to return to China for the first time and see their families again.
This is the immigration story of my parents. What’s yours? Shoot us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org