Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Min "Mandy" Wang, March 14, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Introduction to project and brief background of hometown

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Partial Transcript: Two. Three. Alright, it's counting so I think that means it's on.

Segment Synopsis: A brief introduction is given to the project in which this interview is included. Wang teaches Soderberg how to say "hello" in Mandarin Chinese. Wang introduces her hometown and her work at a printing company sourcing printing materials with her husband.

Keywords: "Fireworks City"; China; Free Library of Philadelphia; Hunan Province; Liuyang River; Print industry; West Chester University

Subjects: Employment; Immigrants; Liuyang Shi (China); Occupations

GPS: Liuyang, the "fireworks town", where Wang grew up.
Map Coordinates: 28.163547, 113.642514
00:02:05 - Husband's arrival in America / Reasons for immigrating

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Partial Transcript: And, but, my--because my husband, uh, born in Hong Kong and he when she--when he at high school, and she--he come to America, United States.

Segment Synopsis: Wang details the journey her husband made to America before they were married. He lived in Philadelphia for ten years, and now has his citizenship. He had trouble adapting to the Chinese culture after growing up in Hong Kong and living in the United States, so the couple was motivated to immigrate. She then briefly describes three main reasons for immigrating: education, air pollution, and food safety. Wang feels that the Chinese model of education creates too much pressure and less independence for students.

Keywords: Air pollution; Changsha, Hunan Province; Citizenship; Education; Environmental hazards; Food safety

Subjects: Changsha (Hunan Sheng, China); Education; Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

00:05:56 - Growing up an only child in the "Fireworks City"

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Partial Transcript: I think, I'd like to go back to your, to your childhood.

Segment Synopsis: Wang shares her family's experience under the one-child policy in China. She is an only child; she explains that in cities in China, families could only have one child, although in villages families may have two children if their first child is a girl. Perhaps more uncommon is that her parents were very loving and did not impose as much pressure as other Chinese parents may have. She directly translates the word 'harmony' when describing their family relationship. She shares her mother's work in the local fireworks company and her father's work in government-sanctioned construction.

Keywords: "Fireworks City"; Boyfriends; Construction; Fireworks company; Harmony; Liuyang, China; One-child policy; Parent relationships; University

Subjects: Childhood; Employment; Families.; Liuyang Shi (China); Occupations

00:11:32 - Pressure in the Chinese education system

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Partial Transcript: You also mentioned education was one of the reasons why you came to the United States.

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes the education environment in China as highly competitive and pressured. Most families gear their children from a young age to study to pass exams which will then help them get into a good school and find a good job. She desires a more relaxed environment for her own children to learn in. She recounts the strict exam-based approach to learning in her own experience with learning English in China.

Keywords: Education; Examinations; Exams; Hardships; Job searches; Pressure; Spoken English; University

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Families.; Liuyang Shi (China)

00:13:29 - A choppy journey to America

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Partial Transcript: So at what point like--how old were you when you moved from China to the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Wang remembers first visiting Philadelphia for three months in 2016, returning pregnant to Hong Kong where she gave birth to her son, then came back to Philadelphia in December 2018. Her husband already lived in Philadelphia at that time. By giving birth in Hong Kong, her son became a Chinese citizen, but since Wang's husband is an American citizen, he is also an American citizen. She recalls the comfort of having family in Philadelphia to welcome her and ease the transition of moving. She had to teach her husband Mandarin, and she learned English from him.

Keywords: Childbirth; Children; Dual citizenship; English; Family; Hong Kong, China; Mandarin; Moving; Pregnancy; Teaching

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Hong Kong (China); Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:16:21 - First house and adapting to Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: What was your first house like in America?

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes her current living situation and expresses a desire to move to Lower Merion, a better school district for her children. She illustrates differences between American and Chinese culture, mainly a lack of common kindness in China that Wang sees in Philadelphia and the very different rules of traffic and pedestrians.

Keywords: American culture; Chinese culture; Development; Education; English; Hopkinson House; Language acquisition; Lower Merion school district; Manners; Pedestrians; Road safety

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:19:53 - Adapting to cooking in the United States

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Partial Transcript: So are y--now that you're in the United States, do you contact your family in China?

Segment Synopsis: Wang shares her discomfort with shopping and cooking as Philadelphia does not have all the same ingredients or tools as China. However she is grateful for the exhaust hood above the stove which allows her to cook some spicy food, especially her favorite pork dish from home. She briefly shows pictures of family members.

Keywords: American food; Changsha City, China; Children; Cooking; Exhaust hood; Family; Hunan cuisine; Pork; Shopping; Spicy food

Subjects: Changsha City (China); Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Food habits; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:25:48 - Culture shock and learning English

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Partial Transcript: So you had your son--um, I'm trying to remember--you had your son in Beijing right? Or, um, in Hong Kong, you said?

Segment Synopsis: Prior to immigrating, Wang had visited Philadelphia. She recounts the difficulty of moving to Philadelphia with little English and little assistance. She is grateful for the free English as a second language lessons offered at the Free Library of Philadelphia which allow her to become a better communicator. Because of programs like these she is a more confident English speaker, better able to make friends, and converse with her children's teachers.

Keywords: Culture shock; English as a Second Language (ESL); English classes; Free lessons; Language acquisition; Pronunciations; Questions; Transitions; Travel

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:29:25 - Friend from home, learning English, and maintaining Chinese culture

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Partial Transcript: Do you have like other friends--

Segment Synopsis: Wang details the experience of attending university in China with a friend who also came to America as an exchange student, where she met her husband and lives in Washington, D.C. She recalls studying written English during this time, but not spoken. This caused some difficulty for both she and her friend upon immigrating because the spoken language was so fast and difficult to pronounce. Wang wishes for her family's Chinese heritage to remain alive and achieves this by exchanging the English lessons her son learns at school with Mandarin lessons.

Keywords: Chinese culture; English; Exchange students; Language acquisition; Mandarin Chinese; Pronunciations; University; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:33:39 - Bringing Chinese culture into the home

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Partial Transcript: So does your h--what does your home look like?

Segment Synopsis: Wang shares how the apartment her family rents has little Chinese decoration. They had limited room for bringing cultural items with them, so they bought some Chinese decorations and display those in their home. Wang acknowledges how these are not the same as what she knew in China and hopes that in time her family's little apartment will start to feel like home.

Keywords: Apartments; Chinese heritage; Cultural items; Photos

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:35:44 - Visiting parents and home in China

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Partial Transcript: Do you ever go back and visit?

Segment Synopsis: Wang shares how she is in the process of obtaining her green card and how she will then be able to go back to China to visit family and friends after obtaining permanent residency. She reflects on her parents' full and happy lives now retired in China, and on future plans to possibly care for them in America.

Keywords: Caring for parents; Green cards; Immigration status; Older adult university; Parents; Retirement

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants

00:37:49 - A typical day for a Chinese student

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Partial Transcript: So, um, well I wanted to go back to your education and university in China. What was y--do you have a favorite memory about going to school there?

Segment Synopsis: Wang goes into detail about the academic environment for a typical Chinese student. Most of the day, night, and weekend was consumed with some form of studying. Oftentimes parents added to this pressure, anxious for their children to perform well. It is this environment that inspired Wang to seek a different, more relaxed education for her children in America.

Keywords: Chinese education; Extracurricular activities; Homework; Job competition; Parental anxiety; School pressure; University; Weekend study

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants

00:42:38 - Making the difficult decision to stay in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: What made you say, "I want to stay here"?

Segment Synopsis: Wang emphasizes the opportunity in America for her children to study in the education system, and for herself to grow personally. She describes a restricted view of the family that is common in China, limited to obtaining a house, car, and children. She states her desire for a life made up of more than these things, including exercise and studying English, which she feels she can do here in the United States.

Keywords: Exercise; Meaning of family; Planning for the future; Possessions; Status

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants

00:44:10 - Learning about American culture

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Partial Transcript: Um, are there any other, um, like, cultural practices or religious practices you would do in China?

Segment Synopsis: Wang shares the various ways she learns about and experiences American culture, including through a book on American culture and through Google. She notes one point the book, that Americans are very independent and unwilling to help. This has been surprising to her because she has experienced Americans in Philadelphia as very helpful and nice.

Keywords: Cultural differences; Culture books; Google; Independence

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:46:08 - Current life and making Philadelphia home

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Partial Transcript: Well, can you tell me about--how do you--like, what does your day--what does a normal day look like for you now?

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes what her life looks like now as a mom with a newborn baby and housework, and as a student learning English. She also shares her dreams of possibly going back to school or opening her own company. She hopes to find a job after she obtains a green card, where she can make more money to give her children a good education. Once she improves her English, she hopes to work in her brother-in-law's eye doctor clinic. She considers continuing her schooling to get training in a field of work she enjoys, although she is unsure what field that will be.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Certificates; Entrepreneurship; Eye doctor clinics; Green cards; Housework; Lower Merion school district; Private schools; Studying English

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Immigrants; Occupations; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:50:25 - Clean food and clear sky

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Partial Transcript: Um, you mentioned in the beginning that the main reasons you wanted to come over here were education, air pollution, and safety--

Segment Synopsis: Wang marvels at being able to see the clear sky and houses from far away in America, which would not be possible in the smoggy cities of China. She discusses the better quality of food in America. In particular, she notices the U.S. government paying more attention to food policy and making more effort toward cleaner food than China.

Keywords: Blue sky; Consumer demands; Food additives; Food safety; Government policy; Junk food

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Food habits; Immigrants

00:54:04 - Living under the Chinese government

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Partial Transcript: Um, were you happy with--you mentioned that your government in China didn't have good food quality policies. Were there any other policies that you weren't happy with with the Chinese government?

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes the fear citizens experience under the Chinese government, largely due to bribery present in powerful businesses. She says most other Chinese citizens live in fear of the government and keep most political opinions to themselves so as not to offend them.

Keywords: Bribery; Cost of living; Fear of government; Government work; Power in business

Subjects: China; Politics and government

00:57:57 - Friendships in China versus the United States

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Partial Transcript: Um, are there any other aspects of Philadelphia that you really like?

Segment Synopsis: Wang reflects on the friendship she has experienced in the United States. Compared to some of her conversations in China filled with double meanings and deception, she appreciates the simple nature of saying simply what she wants to say and trusting the other is doing the same. "The friendship is more simple."

Keywords: Complicated relationships; Deceptive conversation; Double meaning; Friendship

Subjects: Changsha City (China); Education; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Food habits; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:59:27 - Comparing Chinatown to the ever-modernizing China

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything else that you want to share before we close?

Segment Synopsis: Wang discusses the fast development of society in China with improving online technologies and very cheap prices. This makes the Chinatown in Philadelphia look very old and dirty. She prefers to go grocery shopping at Acme or Whole Foods. She also shares some compliments she has received about her outfits, which she happily replies with saying that she bought them from China, where clothing is "very cheap but beautiful!"

Keywords: Acme; Alibaba Group; Cheap labor; Chinatown (Philadelphia neighborhood); Clothing shopping; Fast development; Illegal immigration; Modernization; Online shopping; Spa services; Tao Bao; TaoBao; Variety of goods; Whole Foods

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Food habits; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)

01:06:22 - Hopes for the future

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Partial Transcript: Does it--is there any part of Philadelphia that reminds you of your home a little bit?

Segment Synopsis: Wang notes the older look and feel of Chinatown as a result of an older generation of Chinese immigrants that have settled there. She hopes for a new flow of immigrants to come and bring some of China's modernization to the area. She shares how she wants to do her part in updating the appearance and culture of Chinatown, and continue adapt to the culture of America.

Keywords: Changing Chinatown; Chinatown (Philadelphia neighborhood); English study; Modernization; New immigrants; Older generations

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)