( Intermediate Level )
Jia Li’s dream was to study abroad once she reached the university level. She did very well throughout her educational career and received top scores. Her greatest achievement was an overall band score of 8.0 on her IELTS on her first try.
Unfortunately, her family, mainly her father, had something different in mind when it came to her. She was their only child and she tried to argue her point of view but it fell on deaf ears.
All she could do was dream about what it would have been like if she was able to attend a university in another country. Jia Li dare not disappoint her family. Especially her father. He was the most traditional of everyone she knew.
She asked him once, “Why are you stuck in the old ways, Baba? The world around us is changing.” All she had in response was a stern glare and grumbling under his breath.
She never pressed the issue with him anymore. It was quite obvious how he felt. Her mother always sided with her husband. It was easier for her. So instead she gave up her dream.
Jia Li had one person in her life who listened to her and encouraged her. This was her native – speaking English teacher, Rebecca Adams, who had been her teacher and mentor for over six years.
The one thing she didn’t understand was why her father would hold Jia Li back after all she achieved academically. “What is the worst that would happen if you applied to a university and were accepted? You’re the only child and surely he would not disown you.”
“For now I think it is best I stay here and attend at least two years in one of our universities. I will try asking him again towards the end of the second year. Maybe he will soften his view.”
“My job is done with you. You will soon go off to school again and I need to move on. You are this teacher’s pride and joy.” She smiled at Jia Li and told her to keep in touch. This was a promise Jia Li aimed to keep.
The emails came frequently at first. Jia Li made sure to tell Rebecca about her classes and her teachers. As time passed the correspondence was more occasional.
Ms. Adams had returned to America as she felt she was away from her family too long. How long she would stay would be determined in the future. Her parents were getting up there in age so she wanted to stay around for a few years.
Rebecca remembers one of the latest emails from Jia Li. She wrote her father had become ill with cancer, and the doctors said they had done all they could do for him.
She also mentioned that her father had given her added pressure to get married and have a child before he died.
“Rebecca, it is close to the end of my second year and I have sent out applications to many universities abroad. I feel this is my last chance to follow my dream but with my father and his cancer I must stay. My mother will need me.”
When Rebecca read this her heart sank. She knew how long and hard she had worked but she understood. The end was inevitable for her father but it could be the beginning for Jia Li.
She wrote back and gave her deepest sympathies for what she and her family was going through. She ended her email with a few simple lines.
“My sweet Jia Li,
I have watched you grow up and become the person you have become. I am so glad I was chosen to be your teacher, your mentor, and your friend.
I know whatever choice you make in life you will surely succeed. I do not truly understand fully why your father held you back from the very beginning.
In my eyes, a parent should want more for their child than they had. Maybe this is one of the subtle differences between our cultures.
I hope you continue to keep in touch as you hold a special place in my heart. Please give my best to your parents.
Forever your friend,
As she tapped the send key Rebecca wondered if her former student would marry and have a child just to make her father happy.
As the months passed, Rebecca went on with her life. She managed to land a position at the university in which she graduated, teaching English to foreign students.
Once in a while, something or someone in her class would trigger a memory of Jai Li, and hoped she was doing well. She knew she would reach out once she could. Right now her family needed her.
The school year ended and Rebecca took her parents on vacation to Florida. Her mother’s sister and her husband had retired there. They spent a few weeks with them then traveled on to Georgia where her father’s brother lived.
It was a nice getaway for all of them. Rebecca would return to work in a month and a half. She was asked to return for another year which made her very happy. Maybe in another year or two, she would entertain working abroad again.
She hadn’t thought about moving out of her parent’s home. It was convenient for everyone. Her parents could rely on her and it was only twenty minutes from work. It was a win – win situation,
When the trio returned from their vacation they all sported a dark tan from the beautiful sunshine of Florida and Georgia. They hadn’t had a family vacation together in years.
While on vacation, Rebecca didn’t check her emails or social media. It was a time for her to detach from everything and unwind. She would have a week before work started up again and she was expecting anything urgent enough to interrupt their vacation.
The second night back Rebecca sat at her computer going through all her emails. She scrolled down and read what she felt was important and the rest she would leave for another time.
She kept scrolling through until one caught her eye. It was from Jia Li. She opened it and began to read.
“I wanted to write you a few shirt lines to let you know I am alright. I am sorry I haven’t written before now but you have always been on my mind.
Sadly, my father passed almost twenty days ago, and towards the end, he wasn’t himself. In my eyes, he had always been a strong determined man but he gave up. He was too tired to fight any longer.
I have been helping my mother deal with things here. They had been married for almost thirty – seven years and knew each other since grade school. She not only lost her husband but her best friend.
I do have a huge surprise for you and I cannot wait to share this news with you. When I have more time I will share this.”
Rebecca read through her email twice and she wondered what the surprise was. It was too soon for her to have a baby but maybe she married and became pregnant to satisfy her father’s wishes.
Either way, she would be supportive and happy for her. It was not up to her to judge something she really didn’t understand.
The final week of her vacation passed by too quickly. Before she knew it she was back at school prepping for the upcoming school year and the students.
She had over three hundred students assigned to her this year. Almost one hundred more from last year. She wouldn’t know until the first week of classes how many actually would come.
The week went by and Rebecca is ready for next week’s students. She made copies of her syllabus and her classroom rules along with the guidelines for the three student essays that they would be assigned.
She sat there going over everything once again and a staff member walked into her room. “Hi Rebecca, there is someone here to see you and I told her classes didn’t start until next week but she is insisting she speak with you tonight.”
“It’s ok. I am just about to leave. I will take a few minutes to speak with her before I head home. Thank you for letting me know.”
Rebecca gathered her papers and her briefcase had headed out. Turning off her classroom’s lights as she left. She couldn’t imagine why a student insisted on seeing her before school actually began.
As she entered the reception area she looked over at a woman sitting with her back facing her. She noticed her long black hair and tiny frame.
Rebecca sat her briefcase on the counter and began to walk over to this woman. As she approached her she gasped, “Oh my. I am so happy to see you.”
Jia Li stood up and gave her teacher a huge hug. They held each other for a long time.
Jia Li stepped back, “Surprise. I finally can follow my dream. It is never too late as my mother reminded me recently. She has gone to live with her sister and told me to get my butt here where I have always wanted to be.“
“I had my choice of many universities but I chose here. I was accepted into the Ph.D. program. It is the next chapter in my life!” The two hugged once more. Rebecca grabbed the briefcase and they headed out the door.
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achievement – noun: something done successfully, typically by effort or skill
deaf ears– idiom: no one listens
under his (one’s) breath – idiom: quietly so that other people cannot hear exactly what you are saying
mentor– noun: an experienced adviser or teacher
disown – verb: refuse to acknowledge or have any connection with
correspondence – noun: communication by exchanging letters or emails with someone
getting up there in age – idiom: elderly or becoming old
inevitable – adjective: certain to happen, unavoidable
deepest sympathies – idiom: said as a set response to someone sharing their misfortunes
subtle – adjective: difficult to analyze or describe, distinction
win – win -adjective: denoting a situation in which each party benefits in some way
prepping – noun: he action or process of preparing something
Question ( s ):
What are your thoughts on the plight of Jia Li?
If you were her, would you have followed your dream?