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Kapi’olani Community College’s Admissions Office is in a building with the backdrop of Diamond Head. I found it quickly and an administrator named Alice started to talk to me. I told her my background, including my experience as a college professor in China, but my English was quite poor and I wanted to repeat college. She listened to my stuttering English and often stopped me and said, “Excuse me, could you repeat? I don’t understand you.” After a bit of explaination, she understood what I was trying to say. She told me that it’s great that I want to attend the school and there are many older adults attending. There are even seniors studying courses of their choice. Additionally, there are some international students. With her introduction, I found out more about the University of Hawaii system. University of Hawaii is a public school system created by the state government, and includes three universities. The largest of the universities is the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It has over 20000 students and has masters and PhD programs for many different subjects. In addition to the three universities, there are seven community colleges on the major islands. These colleges generally have lower requirements for entry and also cost significantly less. At that time, each semester credit only cost 19 dollars and the max you had to pay was 228 dollars per semester. There are many subjects you can study and you have a choice to take classes you are interested in. After two years, you can get an Associate Degree and you can use the degree to find jobs or transfer to a four year university. I personally think that this system of higher education in America is commendable because it suits the needs of different types of students and saves resources for the society as a whole.

After Alice told me the information, she asked me what my English score was. I told her my TOEFL score and she said that I already qualify for the school. So she took out several different forms from a drawer and told me to fill it out. As long as I turn them in within a week I could enter college the next semester. I was extremely excited and took the forms she gave me and hopped out of the school like a little sparrow. As I walked home, my thoughts were like the turbulent waves of the nearby Pacific Ocean. I thought of the words of one of Helen’s friends, “Be not afraid of being slow, but be afraid of being still”. These words contain a deep wisdom.

After I got home, I started to busily fill out my application forms. In addition to the basic application, I needed to prove that I had economic support. In the application there was a section about high school. When the Cultural Revolution began, I was only in the 4th grade, and the schools shut down after I finished two years of middle school. When I was 15 I was sent to work in a factory, so I have no record of attending any high school. Fortunately, I had my TOEFL score and my college diploma, so it didn’t matter. Helen already had a graduate teaching assistant scholarship so she is considered an employee of the University and we had medical coverage. At that time, the most important question is what major I should pick. A Chinese proverb says, “men are afraid of picking the wrong profession, and women are afraid of marrying the wrong man”. From the point of view of a traditional Chinese person, I was already in a stage where I couldn’t turn back. However, I had to rekindle my fire, and I really needed to pick the right career.

I chose to study finance and accounting based on my skills. The main reason is that my English was horrible, but my mathematical skills are quite decent. Second, I already had a background in economics and law, and that could be important in a financial career. Third, many people think that being an accountant is quite boring and tedious so there is a shortage of accounting professionals. In general, accounting jobs are easy to find because accountants are needed everywhere. Recently America added many financial legislation so that auditors and accountants are needed in larger quantities. It is very different from China because in America financial professionals are paid quite well and they are generally respected individuals. Recently, I saw a paper which listed the 25 highest paying professions in America. The first 10 spots were taken by various types of doctors, and the top median salary is around $160,000. CEOs were placed at number 14, and accounting managers are placed at number 25 with an average salary of $100,000.

The things I experienced later proved that choosing to be a financial professional was correct. The year before last I was invited by my alma mater in China to do a series of lectures about nonprofit companies in America. So I created a course based on my personal experiences and successfully delivered a special lecture. Afterwards, I saw one of my old assistants, who is now the dean of the business school. When we had dinner together he asked me what I do in America for a living. I told him that do some financial consulting and accounting. He said, “it’s such a shame that talent like you is being an accountant!” After I have been in America for so long my thoughts and prejudices have changed quite a bit. I remember that the great author Lu Xun once said, “if you don’t have that much talent, just pick something small to do.” I do not regret my choice for a bit. If I didn’t leave my position as a professor, my life would have stood still and living for one day would be the same as living for one year, and perhaps I would still be the same after ten years.

A friend left a comment in my blog that said, “when you are studying you find joy in work. I have once said that if it were possible I would spend my entire life at school, but reality would not allow you to do so.” It is true and I agree with her view. I am extremely lucky and glad that I was able to make a new choice, have a new goal, and live a new life. In fact, when I started college once again, I felt so much younger since my classmates were teens and tweens. How many people have a chance to return to that period of their lives?
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