When I moved from China to the United States to study journalism, I knew I may experience homesickness for my family. But it was not until I reached Coe College’s campus in the summer of 2015 that I realized I would be homesick for my way of life too. Before studying abroad, I heard Cedar Rapids was the second-largest city in Iowa. However, compared to my hometown, Cedar Rapids is small — Coe College is smaller than my high school!
I wanted to run back to China.
Tears constantly threatened to burst from my eyes like a waterfall with no sign of ever stopping. I felt like my life had ran me face-first into a closed door I previously assumed stood wide open. I talked to my parents every day through a video call about my feelings and thoughts. My parents comforted me and said, “Be strong. Try to find something you are interested in.”
I began to find ways to cope with homesickness. I could relax when I called my parents, friends and grandparents, and I participated in clubs like the college newspaper to better fill my days on campus. Generally, everything was on the right track. I was glad that I had started assimilating to American school life.
And then came January 1, 2016.
On that day, China’s government issued the universal two-child policy to compensate for the aging population and to encourage balanced development of the population.
For the past 35 years, China’s government had enforced the one-child policy; a policy that limited couples to having only one child. My parents, who always wanted a second child, gave up this dream because they would take a huge risk— like losing their jobs— if they broke this policy. Under this new policy though, my parents had the chance to fulfill their dream.
“You are a sister now, Mohan.”
It was hard for my parents to have a second child. Fortunately, on February 15, 2018, my little brother came into the world. The first time I saw my brother through a video call, the waterfalls behind my eyes started to flow for a different reason. I knew, even at this first glimpse, he would be an important part of my life.
Yet becoming a sibling at age 20, and when I was so far away, was conflicting for me. I wanted to take family responsibility because I knew raising a second baby would be both physically and emotionally challenging for my parents at their age. I wanted to drop my degree and fly back to China to help. Plus, I was a bit afraid—would my brother love me being so far away? Would he even know of my existence?
Yet I also knew I had no prospects for jobs in China. I had given up on China’s National College Entrance Examination to attend a school in the U.S. This meant I could not attend a university in China. And without a college degree, I would not be able to get a good job, placing a financial strain on my parents when they had already paid so much for me to study abroad.
After my brother was born, homesickness became a double-edged sword.
It made me miss my parents and brother like never before, but it also made me cherish the relationship between us. I felt more motivated to finish my degree; I wanted to return with great job prospects to China to help support my parents financially and to set a good example for my brother, showing him the importance of never giving up.
Homesickness does affect my life. But, my homesickness also helped me grow up. I constantly feel a bit of loneliness in my heart, but that no longer keeps me from cherishing these experiences. After all, I now have a brother who’s waiting eagerly for my stories abroad.