By: Jenny Huang, Associate Marketing Manager
On July 31, 1998, my family and I first stepped foot in the USA. None of us spoke any English. I remember waiting with my little sister in the LAX baggage claim as our parents asked Asian passers-by if they spoke Mandarin, hoping to get directions to the immigration area.
We were emotionally exhausted from farewells with relatives, physically fatigued from the 13-hour flight, and greatly eager to get to our destination in New York City. My dad finally found a nice lady who spoke Mandarin and who kindly led us to the immigration check-in. It was a glimpse of the many hurdles we would face in our first years in America.
I remember my first day of school, walking up to the cafeteria line during lunch and seeing each kid key in a code to pay for lunch. Without having any cash or a pin code, or even knowing how to ask the lunch lady about it, I just went back to my classroom, hungry, without any lunch.
It took more than a year and a half of hard work to learn English, but eventually I graduated from the English as a Second Language program and started taking English classes with native speakers.
Before I knew it, my thoughts were in English instead of Mandarin, and I became obsessed with NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys just like any other teenage girl at the time.
Looking back, it amazes me how far I’ve come, and how gradually my integration happened.
Today, I’m proud to be an American citizen with Chinese heritage.
I appreciate my rich experiences immigrating here and becoming a part of American society. While America is my home now, I’m extremely grateful for my parents’ upbringing and insistence on visiting China every summer, which allowed me to stay connected to my roots.
Last September, I gave birth to my daughter, who is half Chinese and half white. To reflect her heritage, she has two names: Kira Howard, and Huang Qiuyi.
We’re doing everything we can to start teaching her about her Chinese heritage so she too can fully know and embrace her Chinese identity. She’s only seven months old, so I can’t do much besides speak to her in Mandarin, and read her the books and sing her the nursery rhymes that my mother sang to me. However, I can’t wait to tell her the amazing stories of her grandparents and great-grandparents, to show her the many ways we celebrate Lunar New Year and other festivals, and to take her to her mother’s hometown in Shenzhen!
In celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, over the next few weeks members of the Asian Network of Campbell will be posting stories about our work cultural. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to see them come to life!