To those of you who’ve come to the United States to study, did you have your finances well sorted out beforehand? If you did, it’s time to give genuine thanks to those who made it possible, even if they aren’t your closest relatives. Here, I’d like to share some practical money-saving tips for students coming from humble backgrounds who are managing their way through life in the United States.

My Family Background
I come from a family with little education; my mother couldn’t read or write and barely recognized her own name. My father had only completed third grade in elementary school. Growing up in tough conditions, I vividly remember the days when my mother and I would stand outside the homes of wealthier families, hoping for a bit of their leftover food to feed my three younger siblings at home.

From a young age, I worried that our struggles might continue for generations. When I was about five or six, I made up my mind to study hard and change the difficult fate of my family. About thirty years ago, my parents managed to scrape together just enough money to buy me a one-way ticket to the United States. Tears flowed as I said goodbye to them at the airport, heading across the Pacific to a country that felt completely foreign. Right from the start, I was thinking about how I could manage my studies and save money at the same time.

How I Managed My Living Expenses While Studying in the USA
My student visa allowed me to work a maximum of 20 hours per week, in line with the rules of the U.S. Immigration Bureau. I watched some of my classmates working in the school cafeteria, getting free meals before their shifts, and taking home leftovers and fruit. I wished I could do the same and cut down my food costs.

Finding an affordable place to stay can be a challenge, but sometimes, interesting opportunities present themselves. In my case, it was surprisingly simple to discover a Chinese landlord who converted a small three-bedroom/two-bathroom house into a makeshift dorm for seven Chinese students. This arrangement significantly eased the burden of rent for a financially strapped student like me.

Resilience Forged in Hardship: A Personal Journey
During a visit to a well-known college campus in Tianjin, China with the International Admissions Director of an American university, I shared my story with students who wanted to study in the U.S. When one student asked me how I managed to survive those tough years, it brought back vivid memories of the struggles and hard work.

But those challenging days in the U.S. also served as a source of motivation during tough times in my life. I am grateful for those experiences that toughened me up, even though they felt like I was going through a kind of purgatory. I appreciate the tough times in my childhood, the mix of work and study, and the unique journey of studying abroad. Each hurdle became a stepping stone for my progress. After leaving university, I started a successful career as an entrepreneur.

My Advice 
I always embrace every twist and turn, knowing that the next success is just around the corner. Finally, for those of you who want to study abroad or start a business, always remember, ‘Everything Is Figureoutable.’ With determination and persistence, every problem can be solved.

Other people’s stories – maybe you can find some of your interest.