A Poor Immigrant Kid’s Tragic to Success Story in America

I immigrated to the United States when I was 13 years old because my father wanted to study at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University for his post-doctorate degree.

My mother, at the time, was working as a supermarket’s cashier. Needless to say, our family was very poor at that time.

However, both of my parents valued education so much that my father rented an one bedroom apartment with a den in an affluent district for me to get the best public education that they could afford.

However, out of both of my parents’ naive predictions, neither one of them could have guessed how mean and cruel rich teenage kids can be to poor kids in America.

I could not fit in anywhere in that school. For one, I had heavy acne that developed when I reached puberty. Also I was a fairly chubby kid.

Then, our family could not afford the brand name cloths, toys, gadgets, and expensive accessories that most other affluent kids take for granted in my school. Finally and most importantly, my English was very poor. These 4 facts made me the target of heavy bullying and deep humiliation in that affluent school.

But without even the most basic understanding of how to use of dirty words, I could neither retaliate nor defend for myself. I was the outcast kid in that school from the very beginning.

Because I could not communicate my suffering and loneness to my busy parents who were juggling their careers with making ends meet, nor could I explain my pains to some of the caring teachers who really had no clue on how to help me out, I slowly delve into a inner world of my own with locked doors and windows.

At the age of 13, I began to critically analyze my life. “What can I do to help my own sorry self living in such a despairing state in a foreign country with no relatives to help me,” I asked myself. “There are things that I cannot change about my current, sorry state without a miracle to happen.

But I’ve been wishfully hoping for a miracle to happen for the longest time now. And it’s not coming. I have got to depend on myself if I want to see any kind of positive change to happen!” Nonetheless, there was one things I figured out that I can practically work on to help myself: improve on my English.

Following through on that sudden epiphany, it was not easy. Without a single friend to talk to in order to practice my English, I slowly became an avid reader through borrowing books from the library. It was so difficult at first that I tore up a brand new dictionary in matter of months.

I had to look up every third word when I read a book. Then I began writing down all the new words and copying these words over and over again until I know them by heart. Slowly, my effort began to show some signs of hope. Following through on that same technique, when I became more and more fluent with English words I’ve been memorizing, I began to copy down the sentences that are lucidly written to summarize a complex subject, an idea, or a cultural phenomenon or sometimes just a sentence describing a simple feeling.

Then after a few years of memorizing books sentence by sentence, I noticed slow improvements in my English, step-by-step. But I was still not content. I wanted to master the art of language better than all the bullies at my school so that they would think twice before messing with me again. I slowly started copying down famous books and articles paragraph by paragraph.

Some of the paragraphs in literature are so beautifully written and inspiring. And after I hand copied those paragraphs, I would post them on my wall for me to memorize and enjoy every day. Soon the walls in my den were filled with so much beauty in language that sometimes I refuse to leave my room even for dinner.

Finally, when I read, understood, and memorized enough books, a burning desire slowly began to develop in my heart: I am beginning to have my own opinions on different subjects — with supporting evidences, facts, and sources from all the books I’ve read. Sometimes, it was a pain-in-the-behind for my parents to have an educated and rebellious teenager in the apartment arguing political philosophy with them.

But I wanted to express my own thoughts to someone, especially to some of the authors whom I can so closely relate to and whom I completely fell in love with their courageous writings.

At that stage of my formative years of learning, it was the mid-90s — in the middle of “Internet Boom.” One day, my father brought home a brand new computer for me to learn how to use and help me become acquainted with the technology during such a fanatic time of the internet. I started using the internet to track down my favorite authors, some of whom, to my deepest surprise actually put email address on the internet.

I wrote my first email to Dr. David Myers at Hope College — a social psychologist and an advocate of Christian beliefs and morality. To my biggest surprise, the next day, he actually answered my email with an even lengthier email thanking me for appreciating his work and writing and also further clarifying a few key points in his book.

From that point on in my life, I was no longer a lonely person, but a intellectually hungry and spiritually fulfilled person. All the dark walls that I had erected in my painful past are now covered with beautiful excerpts from my favorite authors. And the locks on my windows and door, all have disappeared.

I decided to come out of my inner world, a “dark hole” that I have dug for myself for protection, as an very open-minded person. Having enough understanding of the complexity of human beings living in complex world, I forgave all the people who have hurt me so deeply in my past. Because I can now see parts of my previous, ignorant self in some of them: they are all part of a world made up of limited and fragile human beings — especially since all of them are still in their formative years.

I was praised by teachers for my intellect and knowledge in school, but still an outcast to so many of the students. Now, I am a respected outcast because sometimes I simply refuse to have an empty conversation, filled with empty words, to many of these “cool” kids.

When I entered college at Georgia Institute of Technology, academics was my main priority because I simply loved learning. However, I entered college with another secret agenda that was also academically related. I wanted to share my story with some of the minority, grade school students who were like me in my past — outcasts of their schools. I wanted to share with these kids how I also suffered greatly in my past by the hands of bullies.

But because of hard work in learning, I made it into a prestigious university here in Atlanta today. I wanted to reach out to these children from poor families and underprivileged grade schools to be their friends — to help them fall in love with learning.

I reached out to many campus students and clubs to start a tutoring program for Atlanta’s inner-city, underprivileged schools. This program started off small but grew steadily. Soon, these kids whom we tutor began knowing our Georgia Tech students by name. And the Tech students began taking extra hours off to spend time with their mentored friends. Soon the words spread.

Some of the other clubs’ students who had service project obligations joined up with my tutoring program as well. At one point, the tutoring program that I started became big enough that it showed up on Georgia Tech’s radar screen. During my department’s annual picnic, I was invited to give a speech about our tutoring program to the staffs and students.

And I gave a heart-felt, honest speech about my past’s difficulties and loneness, and how I can relate so much to some of these kids whom we tutor. I told the entire school that learning was my only hope and only way out from my past despair. “And I want this to be the focus of this mission that some of our Georgia Tech students have already embarked on,” I announced loudly with confidence and conviction at the end of the speech.

And out of all my expectations, the entire 500 students, professors, and staffs in my department stood up and applauded. Hundreds students signed up for the program right there and then. The tutoring program slowly cemented into a cultural event in my department where every new student coming into this school must try it at least once.

During those years of my college tutoring experience, I wrote many speeches for the school. And that’s how I became a professional in persuasive writing.

One day, not on any particularly special day, I wondered to myself, wouldn’t it be nice if I can earn some money and turn it into a scholarship foundation to buy books for these children whom we tutor. A few weeks passed and out of nowhere again, I came up with a integrated circuit, business idea that seemed promising. And out of many my tutoring friends’ encouragement, I decided to go for it.

I needed money, and Georgia Tech has plenty of money for student organizations. That is when I learned to write a full and formal business plan. Out of many weeks of hard work, market research, and calculations, I came up with a 40-page business plan that convinced the student dean to invest $10,000 into my business.

Then to run this business, with the help of Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society’s officers, we wrote down together a detailed standard operating procedure, which I also had to learn to write, to divide up the chip manufacturing work into several assembly lines for all the new Eta Kappa Nu members to perform as part of their initiation ritual.

Currently, Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society at Georgia Tech is still running that business I helped to create and making scholarship money for these children whom I once tutored. This is how I learned to write a business plan and a standard operating procedure.

I started to really move into the field of technical writing when I started working for the Air Force’s laboratories located in the Georgia Tech Research Institute. My first big assignment that came up after I got my security clearance was trying to recycle — before retiring — all of the excess AAW-44 infrared, UV, and laser missile warning sensors, designed for the outdated, level-flying, stealth F-117 bombers, onto the highly maneuverable F-16s and A-10s.

These sensors were designed for a straight flying bomber, not for highly maneuverable aircrafts that need 360o coverage. One night, I came up with a design based on mathematical calculations derived from a chemical, molecular model that proved very promising. Soon, a team of graduate research assistants were assembled to work with me to write a program to test my theory and calculations.

After 4 months of work, this math model indeed was a success. At that time, my boss required me to learn how to write my first classified, technical paper and presentation for the Air Force’s “Big Guys” — as an undergraduate student.

Later on in my career with the Air Force, another big project was brought to me. This time, it was for me to design a Network Centric Warfare styled telecommunication program to connect all the Radar sites at Eglin Air Force in Florida.

The project was going test all the networked Russian made Radars there and find out the effectiveness of their data fusion capabilities against U.S. Air Force’s recently designed, ALQ-213 prototype jammer. For this project, aside from the technical work that I contributed, my boss required me to learn how to write my first project proposal to the Department of Defense with a budget estimate.

While I worked at the Air Force, I also took a very interesting English class at Georgia Tech that took me 2 years to finish. It was a class on “Rhetoric.” I failed the class, of-course, because it took me 2 years to finish writing all the papers that were due, which were just simply too interesting to me to be complete as a regular class assignment.

I finished all my papers 2 years after the deadline without getting any credits for them. However, my professor helped publish one of my papers that I wrote on business rhetoric onto Google Financial Times — analyzing the stock: “Genetic Technologies Limited (ADR) (Public, NASDAQ:GENE).”

That’s how I learned to write rhetoric essays.

In 2009, I was invited to China to work for a joint venture entity through the collaboration between University of Texas and the Chinese Investors, called Gene-Health Company. I was invited to be one of the initiators of this company as a senior engineer. I designed two networking, automation programs: one of them is a statistical gene analysis and automatic report generation program, made to reduce the cost of manual labor and man-made errors on these genetic diagnostic reports; the other automation program was a program that helped our Genome-wide Association Studies.

After the design of these 2 software, I had to learn to write patents for the company to protect our intellectual properties. There are currently 2 of my patents pending in China and a published paper on this domain-specific, schematic language I designed for the quick assembling of a distributed computing system across heterogeneous hardware and software platforms — useful for GWA Studies, Gene Sequencing Analysis, and other similar data analysis purposes. I wrote a similar patent that is also pending currently at United States Patent and Trademark Office.

While I stayed with Gene-Health, all of my previously learned research and writing skills came to use at a corporation called BBMG in Beijing. Here, I became responsible for researching, collecting, and analyzing hundreds of detailed, engineering proposals, designs, project-cost analysis from worldwide available public information resources and optimizing engineering designs that fit the Chinese market, needs, and pricing. I also converted scientific patents into practical protocols and business plans once the technology transfer from America is complete.

To the leader who have read this long letter, it is not my intention to impress upon you my technical skills nor writing skills, it is my strong character that I want to share with you. With all of these difficulties and despair I have overcame this life time — ever since I was 13 — and to have reached my current, full potential and accomplishments, I have the deepest confidence to say, “I won’t let you down if I am hired by your company!”

Sincerely Yours,

Charles L. Wang

Author: Charles L. Wang

I lived a good life - a hard one, but I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I have made a difference in someone's life... Oh by the way, I'm from China: Downtown, China... Read my full bio.