A Chinese student struggles to adjust to life overseas
by Lin Jie*
WHEN I GLANCED AT THE CALENDAR, I WAS SHOCKED TO DISCOVER IT WOULD SOON BE THE MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL AT HOME.
Heaven and earth are broad and wide,
Yet here I am all alone, with tears welling up.
I raised my head up to gaze at the bright moon,
Down it dropped again as I think of my home.
Poetic verses like these came to my mind. My heart could not help feeling heavy. My eyes were blurred with tears.
Now, three years later, I recall the hardships of coming to a foreign land all on my own, the terrible nightmare I went through simply to survive, the beginning of a new life that changed the difficulties into tremendous opportunities, and the joy I am now experiencing.
The Many Attractions of Going Abroad to Study
I am the only daughter of a highly intellectual family. My father is a professor. People called me “little genius” when I went to university at the age of 15. When I was 19, I started lecturing at a university. At 23, I received my MA in literature. To me, the world was full of praise; life was very happy.
One day my mother said, “Jie Jie, you are 25. You cannot be always dwelling in the praises of your past. Even those who did not do as well as you at university are going abroad one by one. It’s time for you to move forward a step.”
She was right. People like me could not get by without going abroad. If I stayed in China, I would get stuck in a rut.
Thus one day I found myself at L International Airport. All alone with two big suitcases on a cart — one was bigger than me! I stood outside by the road in a state of shock.
The Hardships to be Endured by a World Wanderer
At last I was at the university, but I was really discouraged when the Accommodations Office told me they thought I wasn’t coming, so my room had been given to someone else. Some Singaporean students introduced me to the vice-chairman of the Chinese Society, who introduced me to Mr. Hao (a research scholar from China), who introduced me to a team of six professors from China who were visiting the university for three weeks. They had rented an entire house, and were willing to let me stay in their attic room for the last week of their visit.
I knew that my money was not enough to pay my tuition fees and living expenses, so I found a job that evening — a little Chinese restaurant that took me for two evenings a week. The next week I had to attend lectures, look for a house, and also find another job. Through the university paper I found a lovely place to stay, and the Job Center arranged an interview for me at a supermarket. I also took a job washing dishes six nights a week.
Life as both student and worker lasted until April. It brought me a lot of hardship. It would usually be midnight before I was home, and I had to study until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.
Problems came when I was promoted to waitress. The other waiters and waitresses were all relatives of the boss, or sons of his friends. They all drove Mercedes, Audis, or Volvos, and had portable phones. They were proud like princes, and whatever they did not feel like doing, they called me to do. They insulted me in Cantonese, which I could not understand. They believed I was not qualified to be their equal.
Chinese intellectuals are proud. We are not afraid of hardship or poverty, but we cannot bear being insulted or humiliated! Finally one day I could not help pouring out my hardships to my parents. I sent three letters, and in each I became more determined to give up and go home.
Returning to the Father’s Bosom
My poor father wrote back, “If I were allowed to come, I would fly to your side right away.” I knew that was true. I remembered my years at university when he would come to see me every month. He brought my favorite food cooked and packed into bags, and he’d tidy my room for me.
That evening a new housemate asked me, “Do you know there is a Heavenly Father?”
That was the first time I had heard this term. “Father” was always a special word for me. When my housemate saw I was so tired and bewildered, he offered to take me to a concert the following day.
The group was from Taiwan, with an American leader. She was 70 years old and had left America when she was 19, all on her own. Later she helped to set up this singing group, Heavenly Melody, and led them all over the world to speak of God’s love in song. She played a song that was very solemn and profound. Other members of the group sang beautiful songs with vivid gestures.
I was so happy. I did not notice that I had begun to cry, and the tears fell without stopping. The term “Heavenly Father” started to make sense to me. I felt surrounded by love.
At the end, they asked, “If you would like to receive this gift of love, please raise your hand.” My heart was really struggling. Finally I raised my hand up high. A lady led me in saying a prayer, asking me to follow her sentence by sentence:
“Our Father in Heaven, thank You for loving me and letting me know You as a Father. You sent Your Son to die on a cross for my sin so that today I can come before You. Before I was like a sheep gone astray and went on my own way. Please forgive my past. From now on I want to accept You as Lord over my life. Please lead me to walk always in Your way, according to Your will for my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
I said this with trembling voice as tears were running down my cheeks. Yes, I had always wanted to prolong my happy days, so I chose to come abroad, thinking that was where my happy days would continue with riches and academic degrees. Then I found myself buried in hard labors and much more sorrows, where I not only lost the love I had, but all my identity too, and wondered whether I was worth anything. Life was terribly bitter. It was Jesus who brought love back to me!
The nightmares are over forever. They have become opportunities for me to allow God to come into my life and change it to fit His special plan. I can clearly see God has been with me and loved me all the time, even before I became a Christian! Recalling all this is painful, but there is no bitterness in me now. Because I have God in me, I have all His wonderful promises with me and I know He is faithful. That makes me feel on top of the world. He wants all of us to know and enjoy His love and to come under His wings!
Perhaps like me, you too have come overseas from China to further your studies – and it has been a time when you have met Christians and become curious about the Christian faith. I realize that my testimony and experiences are in many ways unique to me. God knows our needs and treats us as individuals. He finds ways of speaking to us and communicating with us that are especially suited to us personally.
I believe there are aspects of the experiences I have passed through with which you can readily identify, because like you I am also a Chinese and shared your search for satisfaction, truth, and reality.
May I encourage you to respond to the love of God by asking Jesus into your heart and life as Savior and Lord – as I have? That for me was a turning point. My life since has been a daily experience of His care, love, and power.
Perhaps you would like to pray something like this, making your decision to become a Christian, as I have:
“Lord Jesus Christ, thank You that You died on the cross for me. Thank You that You also rose from the dead, so that I might have forgiveness for what I have done wrong, and also Your wonderful gift of eternal life. Come into my life now as my own personal Savior and Lord, and help me to live from this day on as a Christian, trusting in a Heavenly Father’s love and care. In Your name I pray, amen.”
- not her real name
Lin Jie, who left China to pursue a graduate degree in literature, is now working as an editor in the West.
Editors’ note: Lin Jie’s complete story, in Chinese, is available on audiotape. Please contact The Mandate offices for a copy.