Immigrant stories: coming to America

Yabi Bereket, International editor

As it is for many immigrants, coming into a new country and attempting to live a new life has its difficulties, especially once you’ve already built a life for yourself.
For senior Jiafu Li, leaving Guangzhou, China at the age of 10 and having to restart his life, created difficulties for the first couple of years.

Li was not fluent in English when he first came to America in 2011, but was able to learn the language through attending school and practicing as much as he could.
This language barrier originally created difficulties for Li, being that it made it harder for Li to create new friends, and attempting to hold simple conversations was a struggle he faced as well.

“It took me about half a year just to learn how to ask my teachers to go to the restroom,” Li said.

Besides this one adjustment Li had to make, he also had to accept and adapt to his new surroundings at Annandale, Virginia.
“Another hard thing to adjust to was the lack of people on the streets,” Li said. “Back in Guangzhou, the streets were always flooded with people and many stores, making it seem as if there was always something to do.”

These major changes which Li went through when coming here didn’t stop him from trying to make the best out of his new life.
“One huge thing I noticed was the change in diversity. In America, there are so many different looking people everywhere you look. It’s a nice change,” Li said.

He was also able to find bits of back home, here in America.
“I always miss the city lights at night in China. Thankfully, I am able to catch a glimpse of that whenever I go to Mosaic at night, which looks very similar,” Li said.

Despite the different looks in the streets and daily life, there were also significant changes in the way the school system worked in China.
“The schooling system is pretty strict. At the end of 12th grade, all students must take an exam which will determine if you’ve been accepted into college. You’re only allowed to apply to one university,” Li said.

On top of this, each school day consisted of 5-7 classes. Then each year, every student was given their classes, leaving there to be no room for electives of their choice.
This increased the rigor and pressure that students felt in China, but was less of a concerning issue for Li when he came to America. “I can enjoy taking the classes I actually like, and I can choose my own pace in terms of levels,” Li said.

Li deeply misses many aspects of living in China, but it was with hopes of having a better life that brought Li and his family to America. The political agenda in China was not one which aligned with what Li’s parents had planned for him and his siblings.
“Life in China was rather hard with a family of three kids and the single child act in effect,” Li said. Restrictions had made life hard on Li and his family, so coming to America was the best choice Li’s parents had thought of.

These problems did not stop Li from wanting to return to visit family who he had left behind.

Despite the many ups and downs which Li had gone through when transitioning to a new life, Li has been able to adjust, thanks to friends and family who continue to support him.