Luna Wang ’23 shares her version of the “American Dream” and how that brought her to pursue a degree in Chemical Engineering. Her upbringing, seeing how hard her mother worked and having a different childhood than most of her peers have been great motivators for her growth and success. She also reflects on the support, travel opportunities, mentors, and friendships she has found during her time at NC State!
It was the “American Dream” that brought me to this country.
My mom came to America, got married, and started her own business. She worked endlessly to run a Chinese restaurant in order to share her culture, make enough to support the family, and push for a better education for my brother and me. She wanted us to pursue a life different than hers: a life without all the trials and tribulations that she had to face.
I watched as my mom’s black hair turned white from stress and overwork. My mom was occupied every day with taking multiple phone call orders, putting egg rolls in the fryer, and packing up orders — all while helping customers up in the front. Things changed one summer. I wanted to be able to assist my mom; instead of sitting there watching everyone work endlessly, I took the initiative by taking orders at the register.
My childhood was not like most of my peers. As my classmates played outside or with their video games, I would pull up a chair to reach for the computer to take orders. Instead of having memories of watching Disney movies and playing with neighbors outside, I learned how to make egg rolls and a variety of sauces. I learned how to be patient and respectful to customers. I helped out every day after school and on the weekends, and slowly, the restaurant started to become a second home to me. It was a place of comfort outside the confines of my literal home.
My work experience from a young age improved my social skills and my ability to converse with a diverse group of people. These experiences have shaped my work ethic and dedication towards academics, which have helped me a lot throughout high school and college. But, I know the restaurant isn’t what I want to pursue. At the age of 12, I dreamed about becoming an engineer where I could use my hands, and build machines or be able to grow cells in a laboratory.
Now in my third year at NC State, I’m seeing pieces of those dreams becoming reality.
I am pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering, which would not have happened without the Goodnight Scholars program giving me the support I needed to help me pursue my dream career. I was able to meet two amazing fellow mentors, Elin and Branson, from the industry. Elin was a huge inspiration to me because she was able to work all around the world and gave me guidance on how to not be afraid to use my voice. To me, she is an example of how to be a female leader in STEM. Branson answered my questions, gave me advice on how to go about interviews and resumes, and even broke down job descriptions to better fit my understanding. I also have a peer mentor that has a very special place in my heart. Sandy is also a restaurant kid. Our similar childhood experiences brought us closer together as we shared different restaurant jokes and ways to make dumplings. She guided me through my freshman year by explaining things like what dining dollars are and continues to give me advice on seemingly mundane things like emails. She motivates me, helps me make decisions, and I’ve learned from her that I will find a career outside of a restaurant like I plan to do.
The Goodnight Scholars Program gave me invaluable support and friendships, and it also let me experience fun adventures and opportunities to travel, as well as a few ideas for where I’ll live after graduation. I was able to go visit Boston on Goodnight Scholars Program’s fall break trip. Since Boston is a pharmaceutical hub, it was an opportunity to see potential places to live after graduation. During the trip, I got to go on morning Dunkin’ runs, stare at the abnormally large squirrels at Boston Common, visit MIT Edgeton Center, and have Mafia game nights with other scholars and pro staff. Most of all, I really valued the connections I made on the trip. Learning about other people’s backgrounds, classes, passions, and personal encounters added to the experience of exploring a brand new city.
The continuous longing for our versions of the “American Dream” connected my mom and I. She has worked towards my future. I want to work hard to become a chemical engineer not only to make my mom proud, but also to prove to myself that I can do what I set my mind to. My mom has supported me from the very beginning. She believed NC State would be a good environment for me to thrive in, and wanted me to pursue the Goodnight Scholars program because she knew it would help me in ways she could not. From every trip, late night call, and moments of doubt, she has always been there. She has seen my growth and said to me the 5 words that she has never said before: “我为你骄傲 (I am proud of you).” Because of this, I’m motivated to work harder because I know I will always have someone on my side.