From China to the US – A Dream Achieved

by EG Yang

Yang Family Circa 1982 – EG on Far Right

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.

EG  Graduation – 1991
Grand Opening – 3602 Grand

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.

Yang Extended Family – Parents Front Row Center – 2013

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.


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7 responses to “From China to the US – A Dream Achieved”

  1. I have the greatest respect for E.G. and Ellen as both their client and fellow business person on Grand Ave. since 1991 when the opened. It is great to see their family photos and read their story. E.G. is the genial straight forward guy who served as president of the Grand Ave. Business Association, always willing to join forces to make ours street and our city a better place. His is a familiar saga of a brave decision to leap into the unknown, work hard and embrace success. The decision to seek a better life far away from those you love is like that of my Grandparents who left an Italy devoid of opportunity for the promise of streets paved in gold. Before I was born each of my grandparents had corner stores, and as many jobs as it took to make ends meet. They paved the way for my parents and me. This is the story of our country where the Statue of Liberty welcomed the tired and hungry to our shores. I am grateful to know E.G. and Ellen and to share both Grand Ave. and the realization of the American Dream with them.

  2. PAUL BAILEY-GATES Avatar
    PAUL BAILEY-GATES

    EG is a kind, intelligent and hard working American who is classic example of why our country really is great. I met him shortly after he opened General Computer. He built my first PC, a screaming fast “486” machine that he upgraded, serviced and kept current for years. I’m still using his latest PC although it’s over a decade old, testimony to his quality work.
    I admire EG and his wife, Ellen, and it has been a joy watching them and their family over the year… really good people.

  3. Faye Huang Avatar
    Faye Huang

    It’s nice to read this article! It reminds me of a verse ‘A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.’ Uncle EG is an amazing, diligent and caring person.

  4. A classic, fantastic immigrant success story. Bravo! Now that I’ve moved far away to Amador City, I miss not having access to Mr. Yang and his great crew.

    1. Stephanie Avatar

      What a great story! Thank you for sharing.

  5. EG is an AMAZING person, and it’s wonderful to know his story. He and Alex and Ellen have helped Walden Pond Books with our growing need of Computers and “pain in the butt” network over the years and I can’t recommend his business enough. They are hard working , honest , caring and community minded and I am so very grateful to know them in the business community and as friends.

  6. Susan Montauk Avatar
    Susan Montauk

    Over the years, I have frequently used the computer repair services at General Computer and was always pleased with the work, the price, and the cordial treatment extended to me. It’s fun to read about the history behind the business. Grand Avenue is lucky to have such reliable merchants!