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PHD Social Work, Ethnicity, Language, Religion, Chinese

July 20, 2017

I ask for acceptance to XXXX University’s PHD Program in Social Work because I want to help people in my native country, China, the vulnerable, those who have been discriminated against. This is my professional purpose and it is very much grounded in the historical circumstances of me and my family. For this reason, I describe those origins in detail in what follows.

My father and mother were born in a small village in northern China and both dropped out of junior high school to work on the farm. When President Deng established the first Special Economic Zone in Shenzhen, Canton province, in1980, they moved to the city in search of work. Life was hard in Shenzhen and made still more difficult by the fact that they had to obtain a temporary residence permit so that they could stay in Shenzhen legally. First, they had to write and send several applications stating why they wanted to go to Shenzhen and then go through a background check before they could get on the train and began their journey on a shoestring.

Once they arrived, they lived in a hut with others from their own and nearby provinces many of whom were impossible to understand to my Mandarin-speaking parents since they spoke Cantonese. Since the Cantonese speakers were dominant, the only work available to my parents was hard labor. Backed up by local laws, recent arrivals from other parts of the country were discriminated against and exploited by those who considered themselves to be the original residents of Shenzhen. My father was referred to as “Bei Lao” (Whore’s husband), and my mother as “Bei Gu” (Whore).

My parents worked very hard but life did not improve. Once my mother was pregnant with me, her second child, things got worse. Because of the one child policy, once the government noticed that my mother was pregnant, she would be forced to have an abortion, and the family would have to pay a US$8000 dollar fine. My mother had to quit her job and hide in a small village in Canton, which was ten hours drive away from Shenzhen. Thus, my parents had to separate. My two-year old sister lived with my father in Shenzhen, Canton province. My mother gave birth to me in that small village and we lived there for eight years. We were the only two nonresidents there. Though the small village was in Canton, unlike the residents in Shenzhen, they were much nicer to the nonresidents. During the time I lived there, I knew was that our neighbors and us spoke a different language, but I did not sense any discrimination based on ethnicity.

When I was eight, my parents decided to place a priority on my education, so my mother and I went back to Shenzhen. This was the first time I felt that I was surrounded by many unfamiliar things and people. Most of our neighbors spoke Cantonese. Since our family could not speak Cantonese well, the neighbors seldom communicated with us. They also did not let their children play with me. Most of our family’s friends were other people who were nonresidents in Shenzhen, Canton Province. We went to church which was preached in Mandarin every Sunday. The Christians there were the people who came from other provinces. I was unable to attend the public elementary school, however, because I was a second born child and also not an original resident. (In China, public schools are much better than private schools.) There were several private schools open to—almost exclusively--nonresidents and/or non-first-born children.

 

In response to this blatant discrimination, non-residents in Shenzhen got together and established an association, which they called the “Tongxiang (translation) Association”. However, these types of associations did not last long since the Chinese government discouraged the establishment of these organizations because it feared that they would result in social reforms and with no support at all from the government these associations failed over time.

Our ethnic-based church group developed much faster, however, with the churches in Shenzhen offering sermons in both Cantonese and Mandarin. Most of the time, our family went to Mandarin sermons because the Christians there were from other provinces. I made most of my friends there, which meant only a few of my friends were original residents. Church-based ethnic groups functioned as mutual aid societies with members using their personal resources to help each other. My parents always wrote out “atheism” in any application form or paper for anything when they were asked about religion. My parents explained that they did not want to cause any trouble.

In Chinese school, the concepts of racism and discrimination are not even mentioned but I learned a lot from my life experiences and from my parents. Some kids in our neighborhood and my classmates in middle school called me “Bei Lao”, and laughed at my accent when I spoke Cantonese. Moreover, since many people were not Christians and the government promoted atheism, my classmates would laugh at me for being Christian as well. I felt scared when I faced the original residents. When I did something wrong in front of them, they yelled at me, and said “go back to your village, Bei Lao!” I also felt confused. I did not understand. Why did they always make fun of my accent? After all, Mandarin was the official language in China and we were all born in China; therefore, we are supposed to have human rights and dignity, or so I came to believe in my own mind and heart by the time that I was an adolescent. I finally got my Cantonese ID when I was 16.

I ask for admission to study towards the PHD in Social Work at XXXX University because I want to prepare for myself fully for a lifelong struggle to help families like my own in China that suffer from discrimination. I want the residents in Canton to see other people as equal to themselves.  I wish that, as Chinese citizens, people like us should not have to apply for special, temporary residence permit to live legally in another city. I wish nonresidents could receive the same welfare benefits as residents when they are pay the same tax. I wish when the nonresidents get a severe disease, such as cancer, the medical insurance would cover some of their expenses. I wish if the nonresidents want to apply for a driver license, they do not have to pay higher application fees than residents, and I wish that the nonresidents’ children could go to the public elementary school, like the children of residents.

 

The shame that I experienced as a child is now buried deep inside me. Nowadays, the original residents of Canton are more accepting of nonresidents now; still, I still do not tell most people where my parents came from. Since I lived in Canton for more than twenty years, my accent faded away. I am more comfortable speaking Cantonese when I am in Canton than I was before. But deep in my heart, I still worry that people will call me “Bei Lao”. I choose to build a career in Social Work, rather than Law, because there simply is no such thing as a civil rights movement in China since such a thing would be illegal and immediately repressed. My principal professional values are rooted in Confucianism which places a very high priority on kindness, diligence and obedience. These values affect all aspects of my life. I am especially proud of the values of kindness and diligence and I am always willing to help other people. It is the value of kindness, in particular, which resulted in my choice of Social Work as my major and career. The value of diligence teaches me “no pain, no gain”. People will be rewarded by their efforts, and this also explains why my parents, as nonresidents, could overcome difficulties and achieve success during tough situations.

I take issue, however, with my own religious tradition with respect to the concept of obedience. The value of obedience resulted in my obeying the orders of teachers as well as my parents even when those commands were morally unacceptable. Furthermore, I have become increasingly convinced that the high priority placed on obedience in Chinese society is harmful to Chinese people, especially those who are discriminated against for ethnic or linguistic reasons. I also feel strongly that too much emphasis on obedience is bad for the economy since it stifles innovation. Teaching people to obey authority without questioning authority is simply bad for social development.  The discrimination policies that made my childhood a nightmare are violations of the Chinese constitution, but people seldom protest against these policies; they just obey them.

My culture values have helped me to become a sensitive and empathetic person. I work with Asian immigrants to America and I understand the pain in their lives. This makes me highly motivated to improve my abilities in advocating for social change and social justice as a social work professional in China armed with a PHD Degree in Social Work from XXXX University. My extensive knowledge of economics and finance will help me conduct social welfare research from an interdisciplinary perspective that takes into account liberal principles of economic freedom, supply and demand, and the logic of Adam Smith's invisible hand for example.

I worked as a volunteer with children with developmental disorders, such as Down’s Syndrome when I was undergraduate. As a student in my MSW program at XXXX University, I mainly focused on geriatric social work and completed my field placement in this area. Since my graduation, I have continued to choose to work with older adults. My first semester study in US was really difficult. I experienced culture shock. It was a big adjustment for me: Searching for housing, first time taking a class in English and writing papers in English in APA format was very challenging. My first semester’s GPA was only 2.59. In the semesters that followed, however, my GPA rose from 3.49 to 3.60 and then 3.75.

I am most enthusiastic about research and teaching. In order to cope with the increasing exponentially larger data sets available on the internet, I self mastered scripting language Python in order to use the data more powerfully and effectively. For example, I have learned how to write basic programs to extract big data sets for government websites and to search for patterns in text and web data. With equal passion, I also enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience. For me, it is a privilege to standing in the stage and share what I know to co-workers, peers, and next generation social workers. I have recently been providing trainings for new social workers in China and it is also my long term career goal to become a professor of Social Work in China.

During my first year of my master’s program, my field placement was in Friends of the Children XXXX, which is a therapeutic program to assist with clients’ academic and behavioral challenges. I provided individual and group therapy and safety training with Hispanic and African-American teens. During my second year field placement, I worked as an intern at XXXX Senior Services, Baycove. I performed assessments and developed individual plans for over 100 older adults. I also co-led a Vietnamese men’s group with a Psychologist and a men-women’s group with an LCSW, I also provided psychoeducation for four Clozaril groups at XXXX hospital.

After completion of my Master of Social Work, in order to have more practical knowledge, I accepted an offer to work with a Case Manager in a community housing agency. I mainly worked with older adults who have mental illness. I provided psychotherapy, benefit application, and resource linking for my clients. I also participated in several continuing education training programs regarding entitlements and benefits. I now understand much better how the system works at a practical level. My awareness of the imperfections of American welfare systems has also increased. After this position, I moved back to China to continue to work as a social worker in a community setting. Besides providing clinical services for clients and training new social workers, I have had the opportunity to practice social work on a Macro level, conducting community mapping projects and assessments along with drafting funding proposals and service guidelines for the agency. I applied for a position in the Social Work Department at Beijing Normal University in Zhuhai and I will start working there next month the beginning of November. My main responsibility will be conducting research and completing government grant applications.

I thank you for considering my application to your distinguished PHD Program in Social Work at XXXX University.

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My name is Dr. Robert Edinger.  I help applicants to graduate school from all over the world.

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