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My Parents and My Choices in Career

by Monika Jingchen Hu

After the 1st year in senior high school, Chinese students need to choose either sciences (physics, chemistry and biology) or arts (politics, history and geology) to study for the rest of the senior high school education, with the goal of getting good scores in the National College Entrance Examination and getting in a prestigious university. At the time of my choice, I was not sure which one is better for me: I was equally good at both sciences and arts subjects. Despite the fact that my parents are both from humanities or social sciences backgrounds (my father obtained a master degree in history, working on the Revolution of 1911 in China; and my mother studied English and has been a university English teacher for more than 20 years), I chose sciences, mostly because sciences major students have more opportunities, both in getting in good university and in getting good jobs later. I ended up majoring in Applied Mathematics in college and now I am doing a PhD in Statistics at Duke.

My parents are always supporting my decisions, which I appreciate very much. However due to the diverging interests (which grow farther apart as I am spending more time in school), we cannot talk much about study and work now. I miss the times when I was young, in primary school in particular, my father engaged in talking to me about Chinese compositions and history. When I started learning English in junior high school, my mother was always there to discuss with me about language usages. Now with my own English skills being sharpened by living in the US, my mother and I rarely talk about learning English. Such gaps between my parents’ and my interests are disturbing, as they couldn’t really understand my concerns and problems in research, but as parents they always want to know about them. I am getting tired of explaining to them as I am sure that they won’t emphasize with me.

One thing my parents care about a lot is where I will end up working after graduation: America, Hong Kong or Mainland China. Most of the time when my mother contacts some old friends with overseas connections, she would spend much time asking about opportunities abroad (particularly America of course), and engages in telling me her findings when I call her or Skype with her once a week. My father pays attention to some websites full of foreign news, and he frequently sends me links to articles that he thinks would be useful for me, again particularly the ones about America. However I have never seriously thought about where I want to go working after Duke, so their eagerness of sharing information with me couldn’t be well received.

As I am spending more time far away from my family, my initial determination of working and living overseas when I first got to Duke is fading. Being the only child in my family, I feel strong to the idea of living close to them after I am done with my degree. Maybe now I should seriously think about how I can go back to Hong Kong to work after graduation from Duke.

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