2019 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow Grace Pan and her mother are pictured at Grace's graduation from Yale College in 2017, 28 years after Grace's mother arrived in the United States. "Her physical overexertion and emotional labor have granted me access to the colonial brick walls of Yale not originally made for someone like me, and privileged me with intellectual choice and a voice. While I am not living out my mother's dream, that she has given me the ability to live out my own makes each one of my small successes hers as well," Grace writes. Grace is using the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship to pursue a PhD in physics at Harvard University.
"Thirty years ago, my mother arrived in the United States bright-eyed and hungry for choice, with nothing more than $70 in cash and enrollment papers for a PhD program in Spanish literature. A year later, after a string of familial tragedies including the death of her mother and as the only poor, non-white student in her cohort, she dropped out. Had she stayed in China with her academic pedigree, she probably would have been catapulted even beyond China's ever-growing and wealthy middle class. Instead, thirty years and dozens of job rejections later, she takes two-hour-long commutes every day in the US to push around papers just so that we all have health insurance.
Unlike me, she has never had the privilege of wrestling with multiple identities and cultural dysphoria in an attempt to fit in - she's always felt like an outsider. Yet from the day she had her first taste of apple juice ('it was so good and so... different!') to today she does not regret her decision to immigrate. She came to the US not only for financial opportunity but for the freedom to think, to opine, and, as she would eventually realize, to give me the chance to do the same."