Condoleezza Rice brought me to the United States.
I have loved reading biographies since I was very young. The summer of 2007, I found my first interest in international relations and the United States by reading biographies of Condoleezza Rice. Through “Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story,” I came to know this intelligent woman and her effort to chase her dream through an extraordinary career. I started to know the United States through Rice’s life stories, and came to believe in the American Dream.
At the same time, my elder cousin — a very smart and hard working girl — passed the Chinese university entrance exam and was admitted into one of China’s best universities. However, her score wasn’t high enough for her to choose her favorite major, and she was placed in a major that she wasn’t passionate about.
That concerned me about my own future. My cousin had always been better than me on anything. If she wasn’t able to choose what she wanted to study the most, how could I?
My parents’ support and influence further pushed me to choose the “study abroad” route. My parents were both high-school teachers in mathematics and English in Hangzhou, a mid-sized city in the Southeast part of China. They worked full time and while not wealthy, both believe education changes one’s life. They’ve always given me the best education they could afford.
That included I learning English and computer since I was in second grade, which was much earlier than most Chinese kids of my generation. They typically were introduced to these skills in middle school. In addition, my mother took advantage of her summer and winter vacations to travel with me to large cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, which created opened my mind to different cultures and taught me to be outgoing.
How has it turned out?
After six years of studying, working and living abroad, I never doubt that the U.S. education provides opportunities, as Rice had, to make American Dreams come true. But I also realize that the most amazing thing the U.S. education brings is the freedom to find one’s own American Dream by teaching people to think independently and to never be afraid of being different.
When I first came to the United States, I was eager to “melt” in this “melting pot.” I tried to dress like Americans, and to speak like Americans. However, I soon realized the “melting pot” doesn’t mean that one needs to be the same as everyone else, but rather to keep being yourself and to respect the differences.
I further learned this from my favorite class in college, a political theory elective on Critical Theory of Frankfurt School. In the class we read and criticized theories of Marx as well as Kant, we were told to challenge the existing political system, our daily life, and whatever we have been taken for granted. I learned that everyone has an unique worldview and it is the right thing to keep being unique.
That was the the first time in my life that education liberated me and directed me to find my true passion — the “American Dream”— maybe even larger.
Working in the international development field and studying in a graduate program on international affairs have made me realize that I have my root and passion in developing countries. I not only love to see China grow, but also to see countries like Myanmar, Brazil, and Nigeria become prosperous. I would love to become a global citizen and work on international development after graduation.