As a child of immigrant parents

Tommy Wan, Forum Editor

I grew up in a household filled with stories. Mandarin and English danced with tangled feet and loud laughter. I was raised on fairy tales, folklore and everything in between. 

These blurred lines, teasing between myth and memory, gave me my first taste of the power of storytelling. One of these accounts, as a child of immigrant parents, was my parents’ journey to the States. 

There’s a promising toponym, a saying that refers to the opportunities in the United States, by the name of  “Gold Mountain.” The promise of a Gold Mountain refers to the infamous gold rush in the 1800s, as many Chinese began a historical migration west for newfound opportunities. 

My parents took on this challenge. America was their new Everest. 

My mother, a native of Southeastern China in the Fujian province, pursued a dream to begin anew. With no more than a sixth-grade education, a hundred bucks and the clothes on her back, my mother arrived in the United States. Her culture, traditions and practices seemingly clashed with American society. At the time, she didn’t speak English. 

My father, a native of the brilliant Kowloon district of Hong Kong, also pursued a dream of new opportunities. With no more than a high school degree, a basic knowledge of societal functions overseas and an ambitious, bright young mind, he arrived in the United States. 

As a child of immigrant parents, my father navigated our housing situation during the 2008 financial crisis, while I was focused on realizing my individuality. 

We grew up in the heart of a majority-minority neighborhood called Alief, a Southwestern suburb of Houston. My childhood was defined by deep roots in the rich cultural heritage of Viet, Chinese, Latinx and African communities. 

Meanwhile, curiosity ran through my brain as I looked up and faced an unfamiliar world of education. As I learned to write, my index fingers and thumbs collided, and I tuned into a constant world of euphoria. Fireworks exploded in a flurry of colors that lit up the world I created, allowing my feelings and thoughts to circulate and inspiring me to harness those emotions as a step toward growth – to float words, transform ideas into reality and materialize aspirations.

As a child of immigrant parents, their hard work and aspirations afforded me an education.

With mere sentences, strung out of letters and syllables and quiet spaces, we write to compose history. We guide our generational legacy. When we tell stories, we learn to build cathedrals in the clouds, mend tears in fabrics and fill oceans with colored corals. 

The reality is that the stories of our parents are authentic, genuine reflections of us. Their stories integrate into the fabric of the very American society we define. As sons and daughters, a fundamental, innate sense of appreciation for our parents exists. 

Families across the nation share this American story. As stories spill from our fingertips, as we search for the unspeakable truth hiding between our ribs and beneath our hearts, we’ll feel small headways beginning to rise. 

As a child of immigrant parents, I look back at the time when my parents looked upon America as a mountain of golden opportunities for themselves and for generations to come. Now, I look forward to the promise of a generational legacy.

Each person contributes to UT’s existence as a microcosm of diverse voices, perspectives and aspirations of peaking at the pinnacle of our own “Gold Mountain.” Our unique differences contribute to a natural understanding of a community greater than what my parents imagined.

As children of immigrant parents, it’s time for us to conquer extraordinary heights – to take a leap of faith for newfound peaks. 

Wan is a civil engineering and Plan II freshman from Houston, Texas.