Saturday, February 16, 2013

A handicapped Student Downstairs

We lived in a third floor apartment. A few students from Taiwan lived downstairs. One of the girls was handicapped. She was pursuing a Ph.D. in landscape architecture at the college. She had her own business back home while she studied here in the U.S. I always admired her strong will and independence.
     She had a roommate. Together they traveled a lot in the summer in the U.S. and Canada by car. Later on, her roommate had a boyfriend and moved out. The handicapped woman went to Japan and Mexico by herself with her crutches. She realized her limitations. She really needed a companion who was able. She told me that she had no luck with Chinese men because they didn’t want to be involved with her. She thought it was not fair for her to find another handicapped person as her boyfriend or future husband because it would be impossible to function as a family especially having kids and raising them. So, she tried meeting a few American students with whom she shared common interests.
     One of them was our third floor neighbor. He moved in with an American girl as a roommate, sharing a two-bedroom apartment and somehow two months later, the girl moved out and left him. Then he and the handicapped friend downstairs started dating. He told her that his parents abused him when he was young. She told him that she was normal like anyone else until she was three years old and a disease left her crippled. She had to get used to prejudice against her back home in Taiwan. Actually, Americans treat the disabled very well compared to back in her home country. There were many conveniences for enabling use of public facilities in the U.S. They shared more friendship than love. Finally, the boy graduated and left her.
     Everything was fine until her research paper caused a big disagreement with her professor. She had so much of a new point of view against traditional or well known architectural points of view that made her professor think that she put too much emotion into her paper since she herself was handicapped. Her professor thought that her paper was filled with anger and was unacceptable. I didn’t know anything about her professor. She told me some of her points that I thought would be good if applicable. She thought that architectural designers did not work hard enough on designs for handicapped accessibility to buildings rather than simply meeting the minimum requirements according to the building guidelines.
     One day, I noticed a letter taped on her door from the city court. Later, I found out that she had left the country to go back to Taiwan two months before. But her lease had not finished yet so her landlord took her to court except she was gone. Later on, maybe a week or two later, I saw that the letter was open and someone apparently had read it and left it opened. It was an official court letter showing how much she owed from the rest of her lease and lawyer fees, etc. I was shocked to see how much she had to pay. A week later, everything returned to normal and some new tenant moved into her apartment.
     Another female student who was from Taiwan was one of my classmates. We had a conversation while waiting for one of our lab results about the difficulties of funding. Her family back in Taiwan supported her for her Masters degree. We didn’t keep close in touch but I heard that she went back to Taiwan without her Masters. A friend told me that she had finished her draft dissertation and prepared for her defense. Then she had bad news from home that her mother died. She flew back to Taiwan for two weeks and when she returned, she told her professor that she needed to finish her defense as soon as possible and return to her home country. Her professor said that her dissertation was not ready to defend yet because she was gone for two weeks. She needed to do more revisions. She said that because everyone had to do more revisions after the defense anyway. She would keep the original defense date and revise afterward because she bought the round trip ticket following the original defense dates. So, she went ahead with her defense and her professor failed her. If one professor failed you at your defense, you failed. She was so upset and she left the country without her degree after three years of effort and studying. I felt sorry for all those people who failed right before the finish line. I understood them well because I was there myself. I wished that they had put forth their last efforts to the finish. But statistics showed that about 30% of the students did not complete their degrees.