From The Peopling of New York City

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Where I'm From

I was born and raised in New York, but my family had just settled here when I was born. My mom and dad emigrated from Sanhe, a township under the jurisdiction of Taishan, in the Guangdong province of Southern China. Their reason to come to America did not involve a love story, nor elope, nor pursue of religious freedom, but simply for the “better” future that they had heard so much about. Because my parents were born and raised in a small village in Sanhe, they had very little schooling and spent most of their youthful years working and tending to the chores. My mom was a more diligent worker than my dad, always tending the field and feeding the livestock. My dad on the other hand spent most of his time traveling around the nearby villages and performing with a small group of lion-dancers and puppeteers/actors. Thus, one day, when my dad was practicing his lion-dancing and kung-fu routine, he hurt himself and a nice young girl who was tending the chickens came over to help him. That was how my dad met my mom.

It was actually my dad who came to America first – he came in 1987. Then he applied for my mom to come to America with the help of my great-aunt and finally, after two years, my mom rejoined her husband in their new home - America. With minimal knowledge of their new setting and even less of an ability to communicate with foreigners, the only chance of earning a living and surviving here was to seek aid and guidance from my great-aunt who had immigrated to America earlier on. Soon enough, my mom and dad got a job in a sweatshop and Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, respectively. Then in 1990, they had their first child – a boy named Richard. My grandmother who was also living with my parents at the time named me. In fact, the rest of my dad’s four siblings were also living with us in a small Brooklyn apartment.

However, after a few more years, a couple of newborns and rent increases, we moved into a Queens apartment that was more affordable for my parents’ low-income jobs. At that time I had just turned three years old and my little brother was two. Since my parents worked in Chinatown and we lived in Queens, my grandmother was actually the one who stayed home all day and took care of my brother and me. Eventually, the apartment in Queens outlived it’s convenience to the amount of travel it took for my parents to get to work and with me attending Kindergarten in Chinatown, it was very clear that we needed to relocate there. Thus, we finally got our own place in Chinatown – a small one bedroom and one bathroom apartment in one of the newer desgined tenement buildings near the southern border of Chinatown. I would live here with my mom, dad, and younger brother for five years before we got approved for public housing.

Who I Am

Making Ice Cream in Organic Chemistry
Making Ice Cream in Organic Chemistry

Richard Huang’s the name and Engineering’s the game – Chemical Engineering that is. As a first year student at the CCNY, I hope to acquire my Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering with a Chemical Engineering major. After this, I plan to attend a four-year graduate level Pharmacy program to acquire my Pharmacy Degree. This might seem a little unorthodox – beginning with a Chemical Engineering major and ending with a Pharmacy major – but I hope to gain a valuable education in both the field of Chemical Engineering and Pharmacy in order to optimize my success in the Pharmaceutical Industry. I aim to work for a pharmaceutical company such as Merck or Pfizer, whether it is to produce the drugs in the laboratories or to devise plans for mass production of the drugs. This interest in the Chemical Engineering and Pharmaceutical field all started with a trip, during my senior year in high school, to Merck Laboratories in New Jersey with my Organic Chemistry class.

Some of my hobbies include playing handball (non-European), volunteering, singing and dancing. I was on my high school’s handball team since sophomore year, but actually began playing when I was in seventh grade. I enjoy playing with the Big Blue Ball that is commonly seen in public parks and the Ace ball – a smaller, denser version of the Big Blue Ball.

In addition to this under-represented sport, I was also an active member of the Stuyvesant High School Key Club – a community service organization for high school students. Within the four years that I have been in the Key Club, I have acquired over 400 hours of community service through events such as the AIDS Walk, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, March of Dimes, Relay for Life, and numerous other walks/runs/swims/bike tours.

Whenever I am not occupied with playing handball in the parks or volunteering, I like to sing and dance. I am not part of any choir or dance company, but I simply do it for fun because these are two things that you can do anywhere in New York City, from karaoke bars to the showers or anywhere in the streets! Sometimes I would walk down the streets with my headphones on and just sing and dance as if nobody’s watching, even if they’re giving me weird looks because I know that whatever comments or thoughts that they have about my singing or dancing could simply be justified by the craziness of New York City - no bias and no judgment. This is why New York City is a lifestyle and practice that can only be learned from experience.

New York and I

There are many places to be acknowledged or remain close to heart whenever I want to talk about New York City and its all-around "amazing-ness." However, there is no place closer to heart than my own home, located on E8th Street and FDR Drive - on the eastern edge of Alphabet City. Everything around me is evidence of what New York City has to offer. The windows on the eastern side of my home overlook the East River and the park. Every morning I see the sun rise above the buildings of Brooklyn and early-morning joggers at the park. Right next to my building is the FDR Drive, a busy freeway that provides the soundtracks of a not-so-quiet evening. However, that is one of the things I enjoy most about living in New York City - the sounds. I have slept in the residential areas of Queens and Brooklyn before (I'm not even going to start on Staten Island) and could never fall asleep. I realized that I had grown accustomed to the sounds of the speeding cars and occasional accidents.

If we go farther left of my building, we would have entered the busy streets of Alphabet City - an area in the Lower East Side that is always bustling with night life and fun. I recall walking down the avenues (A, B, C, D) and across the streets (1st - 14th Street) and will always find something new; there's always a new cafe or other small shops opening or a new restaurant with outdoor seatings - perfect for the summer nights. I can never get tired of this area I call home because, frankly, I don't think I will ever be able to visit all the shops and food stores in the area. Nor will I ever get tired of the people out at night; the cars and the sounds they provide me at night; the beautiful scenery of a sunrise over the East River and, most definitely, the adventures and discoveries in Alphabet City.