Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh ya, my children will be doctors

I just read an interesting article on the Toronto Star about how asian parents almost push their kids to go into university to take high standard programs such as medicine, pharmacy, law, engineering and accounting, even thought some kids don't even have the talent or interest in them. And the consequence of that are children dropping out of school, failing, getting suspended, cheating or even break down to depression.

I totally feel and get what they are saying because I come from very traditional parents, and they obviously want the best for me. Thankfully, my parents let me fully take Communications and French and let my sister take her International Development Studies. However, I do recall them trying to convince me to get into Computer Science (since "I love computers so much") and trying to convince my sister to get into law (because "she's too good at arguing"). I also remember when I was choosing my university career I had to consult them several times. They rarely asked me questions like "do you really like that program?", "are you very interested in that program?", or "take whatever you are passionate about". They were more like "yes, that career can get you jobs" and "no, that's a useless program and you cannot find a job after". I mean, I understand that they want me to succeed after graduation. But one thing is taking something that I want to get a job with and another thing is to take something I am passionate about. Remember the time when I told my dad I wanted to go to cooking school and he told me "if you want to be a chef start by doing the dishes in the sink", or my mom telling me "yeah, right". Because that is something I am REALLY interested and passionate about learning! Besides doing art design, web design, and graphic design. Maybe theatre. Although Communications (or advertising) was certainly an option because of my interest in ads in high school.

The thing is that I feel (by noticing my parents and other chinese parents), that the chinese culture is very much focused in study and woring hard, but not so much on the social life (generally speaking, there are of course exceptions). Like the article said, "the Confucian tradition of respect for hard work and obedience “often overlooks creative skills and leadership and social skills". At least for the case of my parents, they usually don't allow me or are very restricted about me going to social gatherings, extra-curricular activities, and having a social life. So I went to school and went back directly home, everyday. This in turn has shaped the personality I used to have and maybe still have today: the shy, quiet, naive, anti-social type of girl. Maybe not so much now, but I am still bit shy and quiet because I have learned from other people (mostly non-asian), and not from my parents.

Since my first year at university I wanted to get a part-time job, so that I can gain experience and network with other people, and maybe earn some dollars. But I remember clearly that my parents told me to forget about part-time jobs, and that I needed to concentrate on my studies. Four years after, I have graduated and barely got a job. Why? Because I don't have much experience because I was too busy studying. I mean, it is not a bad thing concentrating on studies, but it's not like my grades were super high. Maybe because the rebellious me didn't listen to my parents and still got a social life at university with frosh week, volunteering, joining clubs, etc. which thankfully gave me a little bit of experience I can put on my resume. Of course, I did all these without asking my parents about it. They would have probably said no. But for me, experience is a lot more valuable than my grades. Because when you come out to work, it is the experience that counts. Employers won't care if you got an A or a C+ (well, it would be nice to get an A). But say, you have an A+ but no experience, contacts, or anything; where can that get you? And what if you got a C+ but your resume is filled with lots of different experiences that are valuable to the job you are applying for? Getting out of the classroom to meet other people, will help students get connections, who might hook you up with a job, right?

But I understand where chinese parents come from. China's economic situation wasn't the best about 25 years ago. And now with the technology, globalisation, immigration to first world countries, and the amount of freedom compared to those years, there is a huge gap of difference. Maybe that is why they want their kids to have the best education in order to have the best job, and therefore make lots of money. It is understandable and it is fair to say that. However, it is still unfair to make children take something they don't feel interested or have the passion about. A low interest will reflect on a low grade, which in turn will make the children miserable about their lives. I think it is important for asian parents to understand the many ways to success, that is not written on the books, but it is all around living the daily life and experiencing and learning.

And it is crazy that 72% of Toronto's Chinese-Canadian students are applying for universities while only 42% of Canadian students apply to universities. It is funny how the article says that some universities are becoming "too Asian" *cough Uot cough*. My sister who studies at UoT in Scarborough tells me that students, mostly asians, are very studious and very serious about their university careers. She even tells me that people go to the library past 12am, and maybe some even might as well pull a tent there and sleep overnight. Not saying that there is no social life there, but I do notice however, that most chinese students mingle with their own kind and don't usually go beyond. I find this also true at York. Maybe it's just the culture clash, the way people are raised. Thankfully I was encouraged to mingle with non-asians in costa rica (because I had mostly no choice since there aren't many chinese people there) and I feel totally comfortable socializing with non-asian people. My parents asked me in my first year if I made any chinese friends, I told them that I didn't because no chinese will come up to me and say hi, it was mostly canadians who did that. Needless to say they were disappointed. But you know what, this is another story...

The point is that I am glad that I found the article, because it is something I am concerned about. I believe in freedom of choice, that the person can choose either to go or not to university and choose what program they want to get in according to their interests or talents. People shouldn't be forced to take something parents want them to take, because it is their career and their life after all. I find it great that there are programs that speak to the chinese communities about the many ways of success besides the books, and to encourage their children to get to know other backgrounds, to socialize, and have more life experiences rather than locking themselves in a box in front of a book that can only tell you so much.

I am also glad and thankful that my parents at least give me 'some' freedom about my life and mostly agree with what I want to do in life.


  1. There are two sides to things anytime, anyday, it's whether you'd do it. Are you working your dream job?

  2. Hmm...I thought you said you like comments, but you don't reply to them. It's hard to find supporters this way

  3. sorry i haven't replied. busy with the new job.
    im not working my dream job, yet. But im working on it. don't sweat if i dont reply, because i dont check my blog everyday. it would also be nice to know who you are too.

  4. I won't "sweat" if you don't reply, it's just funny when you want people to pay attention to your blog, comment, but you don't return the favor.

  5. im doing my best to reply, i get busy sometimes. why are you so mean?

  6. and to be fair, i dont get notices when people comment, k?