First Person Immigrant Stories
Vincent Alvarado-4854.jpg

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang, Chinese, American

We were never born with a sense of entitlement because we understand that without the hard work of our parents, of our families, of our ancestors we would never be where we are today.

Jennifer: My mom's family came to America, came to New York in 1976, and my dad came to New York also three years later in 1979.

Interviewer: Where did they come to America from?

Jennifer: So my parents both came from Taiwan, but my family both sides of my family originally came from China. My grandparents actually escaped to Taiwan, from Communist China, and my parents were both born in Taiwan and when they got to I guess college years both of their families wanted them to come to America to pursue the American dream, get a better education. So, my dad's parents pulled together some money and sent my dad to New York. He didn't know anybody when he got there so he landed at JFK and there was an old lady actually who was nice enough to take my dad in and shelter him for a little bit. So, he actually stayed in her basement I think for a few months when he first got here and just paid her rent.  Then my mom's family was able to come here because my grandmother's brother was studying for his PhD in chemistry at Rutgers University at the time. So, he was able to get my grandma and her family to come over here so that's when they first came. And then my parents both separately went to college in New York City. My dad went to CUNY for his graduate school and he majored in Comp-Sci and then my mom went to college in Baruch and she also majored in IT. They both chose computer science actually because of the language barrier here and they weren't really able to pursue other majors or areas of study because they were at a disadvantage. So, they went to computer science because they figured everybody was on the same learning plane. So, when they went to college they were working part time during the day and then they were in night school so it took them a few years to graduate. But after that they were able to go on to build corporate careers, so they were able to achieve the American dream that way.

Interviewer: What is one of the things that they brought back from Taiwan that you think is maybe you a better person?

Jennifer: I think something that my parents brought from Taiwan here that made me and my sister better people was their hard-working qualities I guess, their perseverance, their level of determination. Growing up my dad always kind of gave us these pep talks and lecturers all the time and through those lectures they were able to kind of educate us with just how important hard work is for you to achieve your dream because we don't have like a sense of entitlement. We were never born with a sense of entitlement because we understand that without the hard work of our parents, of our families, of our ancestors we would never be where we are today.

Interviewer:  How would you define the word American?

Jennifer:  American, okay I would define the word American as freedom of choice for sure. Growing up in a Chinese family also you don't really get a lot of freedom of choice because a lot of the times you're doing what you're doing for your family for the good of the group whereas in America it's more individualistic and you know it promotes the Self more. So, that's definitely a huge part of being American.