by EG Yang
In 1980, the U.S. government opened the door to allow Chinese students to come to the U.S. to learn about Western culture, democracy, economics, and technology. I was very fortunate to come arrive here as one of those students in 1982. I did not know English and had no money, but I firmly believed that life here would be better. I have two older brothers and a younger sister, but I was the first one in my family to come to the U.S. from China. I knew there would be a big responsibility for me in the future.
I went to a language school in Berkeley and shared a small room with a bunk bed. Soon I found a weekend job in a Chinese restaurant, washing dishes ($30 for a 12-hour day). That was not enough to cover my tuition ($1,400/year) and living expenses. So I found work after school–house cleaning, gardening, moving–any work that could bring in some money seven days a week. My transportation went from a used bicycle to a used moped, then a used motorcycle, and finally a used car.
Going from language school to college, the biggest challenge was English. I worked for many restaurants and moved from the kitchen to the dining area as my English improved. Then I found some part-time waiter jobs that paid more and allowed me to coordinate with my school schedule.
In 1990, after years of hard work and studying, I finally graduated from Merritt College with an A.S. (Associate in Science) degree in Computer Electronics Technology. I had my first full-time job in a computer store as a technician without experience ($7/hour). I still kept the part-time waiter job that I had during college. It was at Hunan Village, which is next to my current business, General Computer Systems.
In 1991, I was laid off due to lack of work. With what I had learned in that first job and my savings from years of hard work, I opened my own computer store in June 1991 in a 600 sq. ft. space at 3602 Grand Avenue. A year later, I moved into the space next door which was 50% larger and, at the same time, rented an apartment upstairs so I could work long hours seven days a week. In 1995, I moved to my current location at 3226 Grand and, at the same time, purchased my first house on Walker Avenue.
In 1992, I married Ellen Li (a classmate from the language school). She graduated from Hayward State University with a CIS (Computer Information Systems) degree and has been working with me at General Computer. Because of its good school system, in 1997 I purchased another house in Piedmont where we raised two beautiful children. Brian graduated from Stanford and is currently working for Facebook as a software engineer. Emily graduated from Santa Clara University as a psychology major. She is currently in an M.A. program and is working in Asian Health in Oakland Chinatown.
In 1999, I purchased the former Wells Fargo building along with the building that houses Hunan Village, thus becoming the landlord of a restaurant where I once worked as a waiter! Since then, I have purchased multiple commercial properties, including my own business property.
I invited my parents to visit the U.S. in 1987 and helped my sister to come here in 1992. I invited my parents-in-law to visit us in 1995 and sponsored my sister-in-law with her family in 2001. I also sponsored my two brothers and their families in 2006 and 2008. I have finally achieved my responsibilities as the family pioneer, bringing all of them out to freedom and a better life. I have been pleased with and proud of what I have accomplished, thanks to the U.S. government which gave me the opportunity to achieve my American Dream.