Human migration is the movement of individuals from one location to another to settle down for a short period or permanently. It may be for long distances, for example, from one state to another or the internal one. One person, family units or bigger groups might take a decision to move. People migrate for various reasons. Some move to search for food and resources while others change their residence to fulfill their desires for travelling and exploring. There are those who migrate to look for political security and those who do this for the purposes of conquering and possessing. Finally, there are individuals who move in pursuit of education. The story of my mother’s first migration falls into this last category, the pursuit of education.
My mother and her parents, my grandparents, lived in Shanghai, China, since she was born, and she had never stepped out of the country before she was 25. At that age, my mum dreamt of bright future, a successful career and a happy family. She wanted something she and her parent could be proud of. She had a desire to travel around the world, meet new people and get new experiences. My mother knew that staying in China would delay the fulfillment of her dreams or completely prevent them from happening.
At the time, she had a job at a clothes factory that was paying her just enough money to push her through. However, my mother did not want that to be the story that would be told to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Thus, a suggestion from her employer at the factory to go to another country to learn English was the opportunity she had been waiting for. Schools in China were not offering quality English lessons; hence, she made a decision to move to Iraq to learn the language. Although excited that some of her dreams were beginning to come true, she was sad to leave behind people she cared about. She was going to a foreign land, with no friends or family to come home to every night. Nevertheless, this never demotivated her as she was determined to make her life better, and she knew she could always come back to her native city, or if things went well, her parents and even friends would be able to visit her. So, this was a life-time opportunity, and she was very lucky to be among the few people who had been chosen by the company to study English. The fact that she was had been selected among many other potential male colleagues did not surprise her. Though the society at that time was mainly male dominated, she knew she was a good performer and her work was better than that of many men she worked with. Her employers seemed to agree with my mum. This is how my mother’s life has completely changed for the better, and she always says that she is grateful that she took up that opportunity and left for Iraq. That move opened many more doors to success in her future, in her work life, social life and even her love life.
My mother’s desire to migrate for the purposes of a better career and life, in general, is in line with the neoclassical theory. The underlying assumption of the neoclassical theory is that migration is stimulated basically by “rational economic considerations of relative benefits and costs, mostly financial but also psychological” (Todaro and Smith 342). The stated theory also states that geographical wage differences are a key motivator for individuals to move to capital rich countries which provide good salaries as compared to labor rich countries. My mother saw her future in another country, not China. As mentioned above, she knew staying in China would either delay her dreams or completely prevent them from happening. Another theory that is called the human capital theory suggests that the prospects for migration reduce with age and typically rise with the level of education. My mother was young and learning English which increased her chances of employment in the international labor market (Brettell and Hollifield 20).
With total blessings from her parents, my mother moved to Iraq. At first, the life there was a bit hard. Everything seemed to be different from what she was used to in China, and after a burst of excitement, these differences began getting to her. Culture shock hit her, and she knew that she had to adapt quickly if she was to survive in Iraq. Some of the dissimilarities included language, food, religion, music and cultural practices such as marriage. For instance, at first, she did not like the staple dish in the country called Masgouf, but she later came to love it, and she states that it is her favorite dish to date. Moreover, some of the customs in such as grooms marrying their first cousin came as a shock to her as well as the fact that the people of Iraq held two celebrations of the New Year’s Day, according to the Muslim calendar and the Gregorian calendar. Furthermore, language barrier was one of the most difficult things that my mother had to endure in the new country. When she arrived in Iraq, the only language she was able to speak was Chinese, and it was clearly hard to understand Arabic, which is the national language there. She, however, quickly made friends with people who understood Arabic and English as she had started attending her English classes. With time, she began liking some of the practices in Iraq, such as their dance and poetic music which have both played an important role the culture of the state for many years.
Two years in Iraq seemed a short time as my mother was learning some of those interesting customs all the time. She started a new home, and made new friends, but her English classes came to an end, and she had to go back home to China. At that moment, she had the same feeling as when she left China for Iraq only that that time she was going to a familiar land, to the people she knew and the culture she was well aware of. My mother’s family and friends were also happy to see her back, and she taught them some of the things she had learnt. She even prepared Masgouf for them though they did not like it. She would also teach her siblings some of the English words she had learnt, and her parents could not be prouder of her. Although she was happy to be back home, my mother felt that things had not changed, and she still needed to look for better pastures. She stayed in Shanghai for 4 years trying to work things out. She went back to her old job and got promoted as she could communicate in English, but she never felt satisfied. Once, she conducted a research on the labor markets in other parts of the world, particularly the United States, and she envied people who worked in such countries. After that, her desire was to become self-employed by starting her own clothes factory.
My mother longed for the privileges that come with self-employment such as more money, autonomy in making decisions and flexibility. This was when she starting thinking of moving to the United States. It is necessary to state that her cousin had recently moved to the U.S. after successfully applying for a business visa, and he was apparently doing well as he sent his parents some dollars every month. This was a motivation to my mother, and she also decided to apply for a business visa. This motivation from the cousin who had a good life in the United States is in line with the hypothesis provided by the social capital theory that suggests that people who have social relations with current or former migrants are capable of accessing social capital that significantly increases the probability of their personal migration. People who move are said to maintain interpersonal ties that connect them with each other (Cassarino 253-279). Moreover, my mother’s desire to move to the United States which, according to her, had a more promising labor market conforms to a theory of migration known as new economic. It states that the key decision to migrate is made by households and not individuals. It also adds that comprehensive set of factors that are shaped by conditions in the home country influence the decisions of the people changing the residence (Brettell and Hollifield 20). In my mother’s case, she felt that the labor market in China was not meeting her expectations, and she had to search for a better market that would provide her with a more appropriate wage and opportunity to succeed.
My mother’s visa application to Saipan, the Unite States, was successful. She individually made that decision although other underlying factors as highlighted by the new economics of migration theory influenced her. Once again, her parents agreed with her decision to move to another country and encouraged her to chase after her dreams. She, therefore, moved to Saipan. Life in the United States was not as hard as it was during my mother’s first days in Iraq. To begin with, the language barrier was not an issue as she could communicate in English which is the national language in Saipan. She also liked the food there though most restaurants offered fast food. Christianity seemed to be a major religion, but this did not bother her. This can be explained by the fact that her life in Iraq had taught her to embrace people’s diversity and appreciate new experiences. Her main goal was to set up her own clothes factory, and nothing was to come between her and her dreams. After settling down, my mother began looking for a job. She knew she had to start somewhere to enable her pay her bills and do more research about clothes industry in the United States before starting her own business. She was able to find a job with one of the leading clothes factories in Saipan with the help of the recommendation letter from her former manager in China. She was happy with the working conditions the, especially with the remuneration: she was working half the time she used to work for the company in China, yet, she was earning almost double her previous salary. Other benefits included health coverage, commissions, training sessions and appraisals that were very rare in her former place of employment. This, however, did not divert her form her dream of starting her own factory. Instead, my mother worked hard to save enough capital since she knew there would be a lot of money needed to deal with the founding of a business and other operating expenses, and she had to be prepared.
In general, my mum came to like the United States more than her motherland, China. This made her take the decision of permanently staying in the US and she, therefore, had to make proper legal arrangements to allow this. It happened after she had been successful in opening her own clothes factory which had started doing well. She made use of her working experience in China and in the U.S in her own business which facilitated the prosperity of her company despite the various challenges it faced. Some of these major difficulties included competition from the local factories and lack of raw materials. Nevertheless, she was able to overcome these issues through proper strategizing that included outsourcing labor and raw materials from China which were cheaper leading to low production costs and more profits. Outsourcing labor led to higher migration of Chinese people to America which also conforms with the hypothesis brought forward by the social contract theory.
My mother was able to make many friends while in Saipan, and that is how she met my father. He was from Saipan, but they had no communication barrier since my mother had become fluent in her English communication. They fell in love, got married and several years later, I was born. We lived in Saipan together with my mother and father until I was 4 years old when my parents decided that it would be best if I also learnt Chinese language. Consequently, I was taken to China where I lived with my grandparents for 7 years. I remember being very upset to be away from my parents and my friends. It was also hard as I could not speak or understand Chinese but my grandparents were patient with me and helped me to adapt. I attended Chinese schools which offered both Chinese and English classes. As a result, I have learnt the Chinese language and the culture of my mother’s place of birth, and I am glad she gave me that opportunity. At the age of 11, I went back to California to join my parents who had by then moved from Saipan. My mother’s life story inspires me to work hard and chase after my dreams.