Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Three thousand dollars. To some, that’s an impressive savings; to others, it’s not much. But to a particular woman, three thousand dollars is not merely a sum; it’s the sacrifice of a portion of her lifetime, the result of commitment and dedication to securing a better future for coming generations. That woman is my grandmother.
Nai Nai is a petite woman, barely reaching 5 feet, but what she lacks in stature she makes up for in ambition. She grew up in impoverished rural China, and often found herself starving for days along with her six siblings, despite the long and tedious hours my great-grandparents worked as farm laborers. Out of a sense of responsibility as the eldest child, she gave up her education at the age of thirteen in order to find a job to help support her family.
That sense of responsibility never left her. Even after her marriage to my grandfather, she continued working hard at multiple jobs. Her positions ranged from local farmer to school janitor. There is social stigma attached to being a janitor in China; it placed Nai Nai among society’s lowest ranks. She was scorned because she cleaned up the filth of others, but she never felt ashamed. She continued to hold her head high and work hard to provide a better life for her family, believing that her uphill battle would pay off someday. Sometimes going without for herself, she would set aside money for savings each month with the intention of providing for future generations.
The first chance for my grandmother to pass on the fruits of her labor came when my parents immigrated to the United States in 1982. Nai Nai gave them money from her savings to help them get settled. Having had few opportunities herself, my grandmother was hopeful that my father would make something of himself in the United States. Carrying on my grandmother’s ambitious attitude, my father worked hard to support himself and my mother. Eventually, they were able to open up their own restaurant. This achievement encouraged my grandmother to work even harder so that she could help her grandchildren like she did her children. Ultimately, she amassed three thousand dollars.
Recently, Nai Nai called me with a proposition: if I could get into college, she would help to pay my tuition by contributing her entire savings of three thousand dollars. Although I know the importance of going to college for us first generation students, I was still shocked that my grandmother was willing to give up her entire savings to contribute to my education. These three thousand dollars represented not only a lifetime of work, but also her dignity and pride.
Nai Nai’s perseverance and generosity have taught me much. Life is filled with unexpected turns; it seldom goes according to plan, but I cannot be defeated by the obstacles of life. The adversity and the struggles that she had faced to obtain the three thousand dollars have made the sum worth much more than its monetary value. It is the sum of a life of hard work and endurance.
I strive to live by Nai Nai’s example. She taught me to cherish my dreams, because those ideas are worth more than any gems in the world. She taught me success does not come easy without perseverance and endurance. She taught me to be mindful of others, and not let my knowledge go wasted. The three thousand dollars that she had passed down to me will remind me to be prideful in all obstacles, and I will optimize it with the success of my goals.