Final Paper: Studying abroad - at the cost of love
2004年在内华达大学新闻学院第一个学期的时候写的一篇文章。作者，吴钢。Studying abroad - at the cost of love
By Gang Wu, for Jour 607, Journalistic Writing, December 14, 2004
A well-known line of Chinese poem goes like this: if the love between two persons shall last, it does not matter if the lovers are together days and nights.
What if it is a month, a year, or years that they are apart? And what if they are separated by an ocean?
“I will no longer believe that love can transcend time and space,” said Dong Wang. “That’s bullshit.”
Four months after Wang came to the University of Nevada, Reno for a doctoral program in physics, his girlfriend who had been together with him for four years in Shanghai announced the end of their relationship. Wang at last failed to persuade her to join him in the United States - She would not wait another five years before he could go back either.
Wang was actually aware of the danger in this trans-Pacific relationship. There are too many similar stories among those studying abroad. A survey conducted by China Youth Daily in October showed that the biggest trouble (49 percent) the students encountered in foreign countries is not language, culture, food, or study, but love. When being prepared to sacrifice money and time to fulfill their dreams of better education and promising career, many have to be ready to give up their love. And it is not necessarily because their loves are not true.
“I’m a woman who cherish love,” said Li Wu (alias). “But if we each had to pursue our own dreams in career, I would have to face the fact.”
Wu fell in love with her husband “at the first sight” eight years ago when she was studying in a university in Nanjing, a city near Shanghai. Upon graduation, she got a job that made her classmates jealous, a job at Transworld Mortgage, an American company. When most of the people in Nanjing were making around 1,000 yuan ($120) or a bit more a month, she was already enjoying 10,000 yuan of salary. On different occasions, she might be working either in China or Huston of the United States.
Yet she had greater ambitions. Despite the bewilderment of her parents and friends, two years later she decided to quit the job and take a master’s program in journalism in the United States. One month before she left, she got married with her boyfriend.
“The earlier days being apart with my husband and my parents were so painful,” Wu said. “I missed them so much.”
A few months after she came to Reno in August, 2001, she could not help but took the Christmas break to reunite with her family back in China. That was the last time she saw her husband. Since then, she hasn’t seen him any more.
Her husband this year applied twice for a F2 visa in order to come to join her as a dependent. He was rejected by the American embassy both times. If he wants to apply again, the latest date will be in March or April next year, Wu said. But she does not want her husband to sacrifice his career for her.
Her husband is now already a regional manager of Huawei, one the largest telecommunication manufacturers in China.
“I believe my husband can sacrifice everything for me,” she said. “But I don’t want him to give up the job that pays really handsomely and is so promising for his career.”
She would not give up her professional ambition, either. Before finishing the master’s program in journalism next summer, she decided to take a MBA (Master of Business Administration), which she believes is the real direction she wants to head for. That will mean at least another two years in school. Besides, as she plans to hone her business edge in the real business world of the United States for a couple of years after graduation, the time she stays away from home will be even longer. She knows what that will mean to her marriage.
“I know, our relationship is at a critical moment,” she admitted, while declining to draw a conclusion. She said she is not a woman who does not care about family.
“I will have a lot of babies,” she sounded so motherly when revealing her plan. But when?
Although traditional Chinese values advocate marriage of a lifetime, more and more people begin to respect their own feelings and are not shy to face the reality. A survey conducted in June on Sina.com, one of China’s most popular news portal, showed that about 65 percent people said they can wait no more than one year for their lovers to study abroad while leaving them behind.
“Everybody has to respect him/herself while respecting others,” said Can Tang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “It’s not necessary to wait years after years if you can not come together.”
The lovers did try to come together. But sometimes they had no choice.
Compared with Wu, 42-year-old computer science doctoral student Peilin Lan seemed luckier. He came to the University of Nevada, Reno in 1997. Two years later, his wife and their then seven-year-old son arrived to join him. But the story did not end there.
With a monthly financial aid of barely more than $1,000, it was difficult for Lan to support the family of three, though Reno's living standard is already comparatively moderate in the United States.
In order to ease the pressure of budget, Lan’s wife had to go out to find a part-time job. Since a person with the status of F2 is not allowed to work in the United States according to the federal law, she had to do under-paid work at some Chinese restaurants as a “dark worker.”
“The Chinese bosses there were really mean to their compatriots, ” Lan said. “They shouted at you as if you were not a human being with dignity.”
Both graduating from major universities in China and used to work as engineers at mining research institutes in Beijing, they had never been disrespected like that. Not being able to bear the treatment in one place or another, his wife had changed a dozen restaurants before she eventually moved to Vancouver in 2002.
“Without a legal status, she would never find a good job,” Lan said. “In order to survive, we have to face the pains of separation.”
Lan obtained permanent residence in Canada and moved his wife and son to Vancouver, where his wife is now doing a job as a dealer at a furniture shop. He had to come back to Reno to finish his study.
He used to major in mining engineering. When he realized that the major could not guarantee a good job in the United States, he changed to computer science. At the age of 42, he can feel the difficulty to pick up a new science major.
“My brain does not run as fast as before,” he said. “And I’ll have to pay much more efforts than those younger fellow students to keep up.”
He planned to find a job in the United States or Canada after graduation. But he is not going to go back to China, because he is too old to find a decent job at home, he said.
Lan admitted that the pressure from study and work has been draining away the passion of love between him and his wife, though he still misses his son Haihan a lot.
“I am making less and less phone calls to my wife,” Lan said. “I visited them but several times during the past two years. I can’t do that too often, you know, flying is expensive.”
He suspects something is going wrong either with him or his family. The family does not feel like a family, he said.
“If my wife decides to marry someone else, I can understand,” he said. “It’s a matter of survival.”
Despite the troubles on their personal lives, hundreds of thousands of students are still elbowing out of China each year to study in countries like the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. No one knows how many lone hearts are broken by the ocean waves, and how many wandering souls will never come back.