It was a pleasure to spend some time with Han (Amber) Wang, currently a college junior, and to talk with her about her journey both to, and within, this country.
Amber, as she is known in this town, came to the States as a four-year-old in 2002 from Jilin Province in China. Over the last seven years, she has worked with the elderly and the disabled, been elected to the National Honor Society, taken all AP courses in her senior years and competed for three years in varsity rowing on the Charles. Looking back on her time in Winchester, she sees herself as having acted the part of the so-called ‘model minority’ immigrant. As she puts it, “I represented Winchester in track and field races, regattas, musical auditions, marching band, art shows and competitions and so forth only to still feel like an outsider at all stages.”
Perhaps this is less true for her now as she aims toward a future that will include law school and a life devoted to assisting all people of color.
Today, as a student at New York University, she has continued to strive, as a photographer, a freelance writer, a systems intern and more, working most weeks at three different jobs even as she keeps up with the requirements of a five-course-per-semester academic schedule.
We will move now to a Question-and-Answer format, but before we do, a last note: Han (Amber) wishes to say at the outset that her words, thoughts and actions do not reflect those of her parents or her younger brother and asks that they not be contacted in relation to them.
Tell us about your personal background and the circumstances that led your family (or you) to leave your birthplace and immigrate to America. How did you end up settling in Winchester?
“Because of the lack of economic opportunity in the rural region where we lived, my parents had wanted to come here for a while, but it costs money to apply for the visa, and that’s money you don’t get back if the government rejects you. Luckily, we were doing this at a time when emigrating was easier than it is now. My dad came first, and a year later my mom and I followed. (Ten years after I was born, my little brother came along, a U.S. citizen from birth.) At first, my parents and I lived with family north of Boston, in Westford, and then on the South Shore, in Quincy. Finally, in 2011, they were able to move us to Winchester, where they had heard the schools were excellent.
“In Quincy we lived at first in a small room right next to where I would go to elementary school. The room was shaped like a cube, rented out by the owner of the house to several different families, each occupying a room of their own. I shared a bed with my parents, and we shared the kitchen and bathroom with other families. After a couple of years, we moved into a bigger room of the house with an annex, where I would finally get a closed door. The owner of the house then suddenly had to evict us due to being found out of illegally constructing on his land. We then moved to an apartment with two small rooms, further from my elementary school, but closer to my ‘after school,’ a program many Chinese kids went to from the time regular school ended to around 6PM. We would live there for the remainder of my elementary schooling and the birth of my brother before coming to Winchester.”
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