UWM is Freedom

Imagine for a second standing in downtown Milwaukee, say, on Water Street. Except far across the distance, it isn’t the cityscape that is noticed.

Yet there are skyscrapers. There are neon lights. There are video billboards telling drivers what Bon Jovi song is on 94.5 The Lake; as if more than 2 are ever given air time.

Instead, just past all of the man made industrial, is the most riveting landscape.

Imagine for a second gazing at mountains and a river in plain sight- from Water Street.

Well. Milwaukee isn’t known for mountains and a river; it’s known for beer and brats.

But that’s what Yu Lin sees every time she steps on the downtown streets in her hometown of Guiline, China.

People travel from all over the world to see Guiline’s picture- perfect landscape.

When Yu Lin came to America 3 and a half years ago to study journalism at UWM, she was not ready for the extreme weather change. Guiline, located in southern China, has much milder temperatures. That is all Yu Lin knew.

Until she came to Milwaukee and experienced her very first snow storm… and also came to the harsh realization that winter lasts 7 months in Wisconsin.

“The first time I saw snow in Wisconsin I was so excited,” Yu Lin recalls, “But after that, I mean, everyday snow.. and then until April, still snow. I feel exhausted.”

But that is why she came here; to change her life.

Studying journalism in China is much different than studying journalism in the US. If Yu Lin studied journalism in China, that is the only subject she could study. In the US, she could expand into journalism, advertising, and public relations. A triple threat.

Yu Lin is also a fan of freedom of speech.

“In China we have censorship, which means, you cannot talk about negative parts, negative sides of government. But here, you can talk about everything- almost everything.”

Graduating in 3 and a half years while taking 18 credits per semester without taking Summer or Winterim courses, Yu Lin has mastered the craft of keeping herself busy. She says that focusing on her studies kept the tears in her eyes and the pain away from her heart; the pain from missing her family. With that heavy course load, it isn’t hard to imagine Yu Lin had much time for anything else.

Sometimes, she admits, she would get lonely. But she understood her family could not drive over here on a moment’s notice.

Her graduation was a different story.

Yu Lin had her heart set on her father coming to the ceremony to support her, but plans started to fall through when he fell ill and was hospitalized shortly before commencement.

On a moment’s notice, he wanted to come. So Yu Lin scrambled to prepare all of his documents in just one day and sent them to her father. While her mother, Yanzhu He, couldn’t be torn away from work, her father, Hanbin Lin, made it to Milwaukee. Not speaking English doesn’t hinder his traveling. Yu Lin translates almost effortlessly.  She says that it’s always nice to have your family close to you, especially for your graduation ceremony.

After Yu Lin spent the year prior studying in Singapore, Hanbin Lin says he wasn’t surprised at all when Yu Lin told him she wanted to study in the states. Like always, he was supportive of his only child.

“I said it was her decision. Where she wanted to go was her decision.”

Although he worried about his daughter, he was certain that she would get a better education in the US.  Hanbin Lin says that in Chinese universities, they don’t learn too many useful lessons; but in an American university, she could learn useful knowledge and a lot of real world experiences.

Hanbin Lin had a great sense of pride for Yu Lin on her graduation day. He feels as though she worked very hard, especially completing college earlier with that heavy course load.

He chuckles as he recalls a story from when Yu Lin was just two or three years old. She had seen a caterpillar and split it in two parts because she didn’t know what it was. He shares this story, perhaps because she showed curiosity starting at such a young age; which explains her need to travel and explore the world.

Yu Lin says that her dream job is to be an international journalist, because then she will be allowed to travel. She loves meeting new people and hearing their stories.

Speaking of apples, her father worked as a photojournalist in the TV and film industry and was the one who influenced Yu Lin to get involved.

“He says I’m not a quiet girl who can always sit in [the] office [the] whole day, from nine to six. He says, I’m the girl [who] always likes to go out. He says this is good for me.”

She fully trusts and respects his judgement.

“He knows me.”