I got an email from Duke the same day the cat had her surgery and now I might be back on Square Zero with going to graduate school. As an incoming international student, I am required by Duke to prove that I have enough funding for my first year before the Visa Services Office can grant me my I-20 which I need to apply for my F1 Student Visa. (This is completely different from my fiasco with my J1 Visa.) Evidently, the Estimated Living Cost for one year at Durham is vastly higher than what I had budgeted, and Duke’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program recently adjusted their tuition and technology fees, so my proof of funding is currently more than 20k under what Duke deems as satisfactory. Until I find a way to get that amount in assets, I am currently prevented from matriculating this fall.*
After I gave my Hamlet soloquy of why me and why this now, the hilarity and tragedy of this entire process made for some clear thinking, like discovering one’s love for painting while on imposed bed-rest:
Being an immigrant makes me appreciate people much much more, because I might not be with them a few months from now. A friend of mine said having a transient lifestyle—moving every few years because of school—makes it hard to really care about people, because you’ll be losing touch with them soon. I don’t agree with that anymore, because it’s even more the reason to connect and spend time with the people around me.
Having said that, I realized how damn entitled I feel most of the time. Today I plan this and tomorrow I should do that. It’s a complete change of pace to understand that something or someone is not mine to keep, and most of the time I take what I have for granted. As much as I hate being the exception to every immigration rule and organizational regulations in existence, it’s awakening to realize that no, I don’t know this or have the power to execute that tomorrow. I am now. I only have now.
And despite what immigration and systems and regulations might do, people care. Sometimes they can’t do anything, but they have made me feel less lonely. And that kindness, that opposite of loneliness keeps me going. They give me hope.
Being surrounded by people who care, I acknowledged that I am not a victim. I think it’s easy to say oh woe is me (which I did, dramatically) and lambaste against the governments/institutions (which I did, dramatically) for making rules that are conspicuously inconsiderate for immigrants who have been in the country long enough to be naturalized citizens. Yet although I can’t change governments or organizations or institutions or rules, I can choose how I face hardships when they arrive. I can choose to be angry or despondent or frantic, but I can also choose to be calm and logical and practical, and ask for help when I am in need, and accept help when help is offered.
And help comes in many forms. Despite her inherent fear of all things technologically savvy, my mom stayed up until 3:30am helping me finish translating and preparing my documents, with both of us on loud-speaker over the phone and working on the same document in Google Drive. My mother is awesome.
I learned a few other things too. I learned that it is okay to grieve and not be so strong all the time. No one is above receiving kindness, and every one of us can offer grace. I learned that I am not supposed to be a human pressure cooker and pent up all of my troubles: I have seen an actual pressure cooker explode and take out half of an apartment. I don’t want to be like that. We share our troubles and joys and we grow together through them.
When I got accepted at Duke I thought I had my one road to go on: school, find a job, work, so I got all bent out of shape when this plan is being severely impeded. (See entitlement above.) I then got all depressed and keened my life is ruined and I have no future! but then I realized I have more options than I thought. It all depends on what kind of vision one has for one’s life, and sometimes the detour leads to grander vistas. Maybe I will move travel the world higher on my life-goal docket.
*To answer some of your questions:
- No, I cannot take out loans, because as an international student, I don’t qualify for federal or state loans.
- No, Duke did not offer me any scholarships, or offer a lot of assistance-ships/stipends. Physical Therapy programs are similar to medical and law schools in that there aren’t a lot of scholarships or TA/RA positions available. Either way, the scholarships I can apply for are not available until after I matriculate, and I need to prove my financial assets now, which is before I get to Duke.
- Also, this excludes me from applying for a need-based scholarship, as once I prove my funding sources, I will be disqualified for a Duke doctor of physical therapy need-based scholarship that awards a certain amount of financial aid to students with standing need of $10,000 or more. So, I won’t be allowed to attend Duke if I don’t have enough money, and when I have enough money (for just this year) I won’t be allowed to apply for more scholarships. This is such warped logic.
- Yes, I will take hugs by proxy.