History of Immigration Podcasts - Kloe Freeman and Mallory Killam Podcast Transcript


MALLORY KILLAM: Hello, my name is Mallory Killam.

KLOE FREEMAN: and my name is Kloe Freeman.

MALLORY KILLAM:  and we’re from Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Our podcast is entitled: Education and the Chinese immigrant experience.

MALLORY KILLAM: Chinese immigration to the US is not a new phenomenon. Historically, Chinese immigrants have been drawn to the US for various reasons like the economic boom of the California Gold rush of 1849. As we’ve covered in our course, History of Immigration, Chinese migration was so prevalent in the 1800s that the government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. According to the anthology, Asian Americans in Dixie edited by Joshi and Desai, these exclusion laws banned the entry of Chinese laborers that were thought to be taking jobs away from white male workers. The Exclusion Act ensured that US citizens would be mostly of European or African descent, until the Immigration Act of 1965 that reformed the system.


KLOE FREEMAN: Today, immigrants of Chinese origin present a sizable demographic in the US. 1:00In 2010, the number of Chinese immigrants residing in the United States reached 1.8 million according to the Migration Policy Institute. However, when thinking of immigration to the South, the Chinese immigrant narrative is often invisible to the common man. Our podcast attempts to shed light on one of the 1.8 million Chinese immigrants in the United States. For the material of our podcast, we interviewed Jing Wu, a 37 year old wife, mother, and scientist from the Henan province of China.  Jing and her husband came to the US seven and a half years ago. Putting Jing and her husband into context, the essay Moving out of the Margins and into the Mainstream, from Asian Americans in Dixie, provides that in the years 2005 and 2006, 19% of Chinese immigrants had a graduate degree. This statistic applies to their story because they came to the US for postdoctoral research opportunities:

JING WU: I went to the…One of the best organic chemistry school in China…So… 2:00I’m just kind of is really lucky because before I graduated in 2008. Um.  July 2008…I got the offer... position offer in 2007 December, so which is half a year before my graduation, but I came to the United States like uh…about a year later because the check…background check stuff and also because uh…I graduated in July, so the earliest. Uh my available date will be in July, so and the background check and the application process and all this just made it February 2009.

KLOE FREEMAN: Here Jing talks about her desire to explore her options after graduating with a PhD in organic chemistry, leading her to a post-doc in the United States. This sets the stage for an important theme in her immigration narrative: education. In our podcast, we explore Jing’s immigrant experience through the 3:00lens of education. From post-doc opportunities serving as a pull factor, as demonstrated in Jing’s previous quote, and the visa selection process, to the comparison of her children’s education experience with her own, the topic of education kept surfacing throughout the night.

KLOE FREEMAN: We begin with the idea of post-doc research as a pull factor. According to the New York Times article “Fighting Trend, China Is Luring Scientists Home” nearly 180,000 Chinese students left for the west in 2008. For every four students who left in the past decade only one returned to China. Currently, China is the largest source of foreign science doctoral graduates in the US. According to the periodical, The Scientist, international postdocs are attracted to the better opportunity to advance their research career in the United States. These international postdocs are under the impression that they will have advancement opportunities due to the more stable postdoc infrastructure in the U.S. We should also comment on the low stipends in China pushing young researchers toward post-doc research abroad: incidentally, a push factor for emigration out of China. But for Jing, part of the pull for a postdoc in the US 4:00came from her desire to explore her options:

JING WU: …there are a lot of people will come or go abroad to get like a postdoc. Generally postdoc. Do the postdoc  research…so it’s kind of like a trend. So, I don’t know what I will do in the future, but I know…the first thing I wanted to [do was] go outside to take a look.

KLOE FREEMAN:  She mentions that going abroad to obtain a postdoc is like a trend for students in China, and for her she wanted to see what was out there. She commented earlier that she was lucky to have received the job offer for a position in the United States. That being said China is making an attempt at a reversal on the Brain Drain by amping up funding and national pride to entice scientists and scholars to remain in China and for expatriates to come home. Many of Jing’s classmates did not decide to pursue a postdoc abroad, which 5:00surprised her:

JING WU: They want overseas experience for the research, so actually…I started from um the year I graduated or the year before. Maybe just um. I mean 2008-My graduation year. Um. Over half of my classmate. They study in China. They didn’t choose to go abroad. That’s kind of surprising.


JING WU: Like uh. Maybe 2 years earlier or several years earlier. The majority of the um people 6:00will go abroad and a lot of them will stay overseas, but right now not many people choose to go abroad because the opportunity in Shanghai or in China. I mean. Um. Very good. I mean very good opportunities for them develop. And also… like the salary..the money  in the United States I’d say it’s not attractive anymore.

KLOE FREEMAN: She remarks that the opportunities abroad are no longer attractive to graduate students in China. And this makes sense. Research and development funds have increased nearly tenfold in China, and the number of postdocs has risen with them. From 1993 to 2012 Chinese government funding rose by 18.7 percent per year, while federal funding in the US has decreased a total of 4.7 percent over those same years. However, salary and benefits for postdocs remains higher in the US than in China. It seems to remain a toss up when deciding whether to stay in China, or seek opportunity elsewhere. So in the near future, postdoc opportunities may not be the pull factor they were pre-2008. But for Jing and 7:00her husband, their attraction to postdoc opportunities led them to a life in the United States, and they plan to stay here at least a little while longer. Discussing the impact of postdoc research as a pull factor leads to another aspect of Jing’s immigration narrative that was influenced by her education—visa selection. Now, you may be wondering, what do visa’s have to do with education? Well, based on the level of education achieved, different visa options become available. Jing talks about having two visa options:

JING WU: Like uh we have two kind of visas we can choose. One is J1..called um Uh what’s uh? It changed color or something like that and H1 Visa is, which is a working Visa. So these visas are a little different. For… (Unintelligible) We chose the H1 because we want the option open. They say if you want to stay in the United States we can apply for green card.  But J If you want to apply for 8:00a green card. You need to have a waiver, but anyway we choose H, so I want option to be open.

KLOE FREEMAN: Here, Jing talks about the J-1 and the H-1B visas. The J-1 visa is facilitated through the exchange visitor program that promotes the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in education, arts, and science fields. The maximum stay for a J-1 visa is three years, but a visa holder could apply for a green card if they decided to become a permanent resident. But, like Jing said, to apply for a green card under the J-1 visa they would need a waiver. The waiver she is referring to would bypass the foreign residency requirement imposed on J1 visa holders. Following the completion of an exchange visitor program, the visa recipient must return to their home country for two years before applying for residency in the United States. However, the H-1B visa, 9:00which Jing and her husband hold, is a nonimmigrant visa category available to those employed in a specialty occupation. This visa requires the holder to have a level of education of a bachelor's degree or higher. Because Jing and her husband both have PhDs, they were able to obtain H-1B visas to work as postdocs in their field. The H-1B visa has a maximum stay of 6 years, but since it is designated as a dual-intent visa it allows the holder to apply for permanent residency and obtain a green card. When asked about her immigration status, Jing responded:

JING WU: We are not a citizen, but we have the green card. Yeah. Currently we don’t have um. We got green card in 2012.

KLOE FREEMAN:  But having the H-1B visa does not make finding a stable job any easier. In fact, there are sources, like a publication from the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business called “Permanent Visas and Temporary Jobs: Evidence from Postdoctoral Participation of Foreign PhDs in the U.S.”, that claim 10:00restrictions on temporary visas reduce employment opportunities for postdoc participation. Restrictions to postdoc participation include companies only hiring citizens or permanent visa holders, or not sponsoring the H-1B visa. Or since the H-1B visa is tied to the employer, job switching becomes costly and risky, which may discourage employers from hiring someone with an H-1B visa. When asked why they moved to Birmingham, Jing tied it to work opportunities:

JING WU: My husband continued doing his postdoc research at uh I mean Iowa State University for 3 and a half years and his boss ran out of funding and then we kind of started to look for other places, so at that time our green card 11:00application um submitted so we want find a um like a uh school or a new supervisor who supported the H1 Visa because we at that time we submitted our application, but we hadn’t received a like um approval yet, so we wanted the H1 status to become immediate. And then um one of the um what’s that? Like professor in UAB chemistry department he interested in my husband’s background and he supported H1 and so he said, okay the first thing if we want to get a green card the first step we need to get a green card…At that time I think that’s the most important thing.

KLOE FREEMAN:  After her husband’s sponsor ran out of funding at Iowa State and Jing took time off to have their children, they needed to look for other employment. Their livelihood is based on the acceptance of the H1B visa, and when her husband found a lab at UAB that accepted it, they moved here.


MALLORY KILLAM: Finally, we discuss the topic of education in China, versus education in the 12:00United States: a comparison of the systems. When asked how education in the United States and China differs, Jing offers a description of the competitive atmosphere in China. She is happy about the variety of opportunities that are presented to her children in America.  Her son who is in grade school attends Vestavia West.  In the U.S., Jing’s sons will be able to become more well rounded individuals.  She mentions that she thinks that it is important for her sons to have a happy childhood.  Even though she values educational achievement, she just wants her children to try their very best. Educational success is the sole focus in China from a very young age. Jing mentions that lower level schooling is more difficult than college in China.  College is a breeze compared to lower education. However, it is different here in the U.S. which will affect her children’s experience.  Jing’s insight into early education in China facilitates the narrative of education’s importance that is a part of the culture.  It also puts the education of her children in the U.S. 13:00into perspective. When asked if she valued her children’s’ happiness over the academic pressure they would face in China Jing responds:

JING WU: Definitely. Because I think competition here, I mean the amount of good opportunities for the kids is more than in China. So and the quality of education is better. But also it also depends because like here, Vestavia, and 14:00the Vestavia West they earned a national blue ribbon for um...I mean that’s a very good award this year. Um so this is a good school. Umm like uh, yeah I think, yeah I value the school system here. But later on, after they form the good habits they can do more, but in China I mean I just I didn't like at the time of my education it’s kind of from elementary to high school this is really intensive, especially for high school. I mean high school here is intensive also, but there is from elementary to high school it is really intensive. But once you go to college, it’s not as bad as here.

MALLORY KILLAM:  Jing appreciates the openness of opportunity that the U.S. has to offer.  She is using her experiences from her childhood to shape how she is raising her own children.  She does not want her children to feel the pressures that the average Chinese student faces on a day-to-day basis.  


MALLORY KILLAM: While Jing does have many disagreements with China’s education system, she still highly values Chinese tradition and culture.  She makes it a point to preserve the Chinese culture for her children. Education in the ways of Chinese culture is very important. Jing enrolls her eldest son in Chinese calligraphy classes, requests for her parents to send Chinese books for him to read, and enrolls him in many activities to keep him busy and make him well-rounded such as karate and piano lessons.  

JING WU: Mhm. At home we speak Chinese, and sometimes um we speak English because I want them also have English. Like the skill even though my English is not uh 15:00that good. But still sometimes I talk to them in English. The majority of the time we will speak in Chinese and I have um a lot of Chinese books. And the last time I uh we went back to China um I get um over 100 pounds…Maybe 110. Over 110 pounds of Chinese books just one time, and the other time like uh when the people like uh my parents and my father-in-law when they come here for visit I mean they bring Chinese books, Chinese like uh to have them learn Chinese that will kind of get them to you know yeah. So their Chinese level is um pretty good. I mean like uh in their year…age group, so they’re yeah, but later they will be you know. They start to forget and spend more time like in 16:00communicating with English, so their Chinese level will go down, but uh right now I mean they’re pretty good. I mean in their age group. Yeah. I’m proud of them for that. So then, and also I will encourage them to you know speak more Chinese and read more Chinese books and also writing in Chinese.

MALLORY KILLAM:  We also asked Jing to reflect on the possibility of returning to China.  We asked, “Describe what it would be like if your kids were educated for their formative years here, but then you all decided to go back, how would that turn out?” Her immediate response was:

JING WU: Oh, that would be a disaster. That would be a disaster. So they, I mean, that is another reason…that will be too hard for them. They would never go to a good college, I mean, university in China I think. They just cannot win the 17:00competition. The people I mean the kids from China, they are okay here….The academic part is equal, I mean the other part is equally important to the academic part, so later as the kids are educated here, maybe I mean be better. So I think, yeah, staying here is an opportunity for my kids. If they go back to china, I mean if they go back right now they’re okay, but if after several years maybe if they are in second grade and go back to china that will be a disaster, I mean, for the first year. I mean maybe I would need to get a teacher to help him after school, and they would get more work done. Otherwise the teacher will not like him.

MALLORY KILLAM: Talking to Jing about the implications that moving back to china would have on her children gives insight into the differences of the livelihoods and 18:00culture between Chinese and American people in the realm of education. To conclude our interview we asked whether or not they would still come to the US. Her answer referred back to their strong educational background and how their skills would help them do well in both China and in the U.S. They could be successful in either country, so looking back she is really not sure if they would do it all over again.

JING WU:  That’s a good question, actually, we may not. Because I said in China there a lot of opportunities.  I say may not, but maybe because I said the 19:00education, the kids part, but also because there are some people like one parent in China and one parent here, that’s another option. So I actually really don’t know. Maybe, maybe not….If we stayed in China...umm maybe we are happy too because we're there and we graduated from one of the best organic chemistry schools in China so the market demand is really good. So even when we were waiting to come to the United States we were working in a company part time, so we know we will go so we kind of earned good money.

KLOE FREEMAN:  Jing’s education and the perspective of her children’s education in the US compared to the education system in China has a major impact on her immigration narrative. From her initiative to complete postdoctoral work in the U.S., to obtaining a specialized visa for highly educated and skilled individuals, and the cultural perspective of the difference between an educational upbringing in China and her childrens’ in the US, we are able to view her immigration experience through the lens of education. The connections between education and her immigration narrative can be summed up perfectly in this last quote from Jing.

JING WU:  Because we were students; students at the beginning, students all the way, so we just don't know what life looks like.  

MALLORY KILLAM:  Thank you for listening to our podcast: Education and the Chinese Immigrant Experience! We would like to thank Jing for welcoming us into her home and sharing her story. We would also like to thank: Dr. Aleman, Mrs.Little and Claire the Audacity Queen for helping us create this podcast. We hope you enjoyed it!



Music from: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music Ahmed, Muhammed Z. "Opinion: The Postdoc Crisis | The Scientist Magazine®." The Scientist. N.p., 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. "Common Questions." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. "Critical Differences Between H-1B and J-1 Visas." Critical Differences Between H-1B and J-1 Visas by Peng & Weber. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. Desai, Jigna, and Khyati Y. Joshi. Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2013. Print. "J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: Duration of a J-1 Visa." J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: Duration of a J-1 Visa. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. Lafraniere, Sharon. "Fighting Trend, China Is Luring Scientists Home." The New York Times. The New York Times, 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. Lan, Xiaohuan. "Permanent Visas and Temporary Jobs: Evidence from Postdoctoral Participation of Foreign PhDs in the United States." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 31.3 (2012): 623-40. Web. McCabe, Kristen. "Chinese Immigrants in the United States." Migrationpolicy.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. "Milestones: 1866–1898 - Office of the Historian-Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. "Partners HealthCare®." Comparing J-1 & H-1B Visa | Partners (PIPS). N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. "US H-1B Visa for Specialty Workers." Workpermit.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. "Waiver of Foreign Residency Requirement ("J-1 Waiver")." Waiver of Foreign Residency Requirement ("J-1 Waiver") by Peng & Weber. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. "Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

0:00 - Introduction - Chinese Immigration in the United States Historically and in the Present Day

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Partial Transcript: "Our podcast attempts to shed light on one of the 1.8 million Chinese immigrants in the United States. For the material of our podcast, we interviewed Jing Wu, a 37 year old wife, mother, and scientist from the Henan province of China."

Segment Synopsis: Kloe and Mallory introduce the interviewee, Jing Wu and the focus of their podcast. They provide background for Chinese Immigration in the United States.

Keywords: Birmingham, Alabama; China; Henan, China; Samford University; United States


1:30 - Immigrating to the United States - Pursuing a Post-Doc

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Partial Transcript: "For every four students who left in the past decade only one returned to China. Currently, China is the largest source of foreign science doctoral graduates in the US."

Segment Synopsis: Jing Wu relates why she immigrated to America to pursue a post-doc. Kloe and Mallory discuss this trend of Chinese scholars and scientists seeking post-doc work in the United States because of greater opportunity there.

Keywords: China; United States


4:45 - China's Efforts to Keep its Scientists and Scholars

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Partial Transcript: "Over half of my classmate. They study in China. They didn’t choose to go abroad. That’s kind of surprising."

Segment Synopsis: Despite the trend in China of immigration to the United States for those seeking post-doc work, Jing Wu observes that many of her peers remained in China for their post-doc work. Kloe and Mallory observe how China has made efforts in recent years to entice its scholars and scientists to remain in China for post-doc work.

Keywords: China; Shanghai, China; United States


6:54 - Visa Options and Their Influence on Immigration and Job Opportunities

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Partial Transcript: "restrictions on temporary visas reduce employment opportunities for postdoc participation. Restrictions to postdoc participation include companies only hiring citizens or permanent visa holders, or not sponsoring the H-1B visa."

Segment Synopsis: Jing discusses how the two visa options, the J-1 and the H-1B have impacted her and her husband in the United States. Kloe and Mallory explain the visa process and relevant statistics to immigrants in the United States.

Keywords: Birmingham, Alabama; Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business; Iowa State University; United States; University of Alabama at Birmingham


11:40 - Education in the United States Vs. Education in China - A Comparison

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Partial Transcript: "Jing’s insight into early education in China facilitates the narrative of education’s importance that is a part of the culture. It also puts the education of her children in the U.S. into perspective."

Segment Synopsis: Jing compares the education systems of United States and China based on her own experiences in China and as it regards her children and their educational experience in the United States.

Keywords: China; United States; Vestavia Hill Elementary West


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