PLAINVIEW -- For Wayland Baptist University professor Dr. Charles Huang, this July 4 holiday will be like none he has ever experienced before. Of course, having only been in the United States since 2007, Huang and his family haven't seen too many July 4 celebrations.
For the family, however, this will be their first Independence Day as United States Citizens.
Dr. Huang, assistant professor of exercise and sport science, took the oath of citizenship last Thursday, June 26, completing the process to become an official citizen of the United States. His wife, Yan Wang, took the oath a little more than a month before. Huang said the couple participated in the process together, but his citizenship took a few extra weeks because he wanted to officially change his first name to Charles, much easier for Americans to remember and pronounce that his given name, Chaoqun, which is now his middle name.
Dr. Huang (pronounced Whong) has been with Wayland since 2012. He came to the United States as a visiting professor at the University of Utah and fell in love with the country. Huang holds bachelor's and master's degrees in education from East China Normal University, but had a dream to earn a Ph.D. from an American university. He arrived in Utah in August of 2007. Shortly after beginning his doctoral program, he started the application process to bring his wife and daughter, Yingzhi, to the U.S.
When his family arrived, he said the immediately found a home in the United States. Huang said his daughter loves living in the U.S. and his wife found a freedom from persecution that she was under in China. Yan Wang faced persecution due to a form of exercise that the Chinese government felt promoted a sort of civil disobedience. Yan Wang has given programs at local civic organizations, discussing her persecution. The exercise is a technique that promotes well-being physically, spiritually and emotionally.
"Many people practice that form of exercise," Huang said, speaking with a Chinese accent. "(The government) felt that many people were getting more power and they don't like it. They want to stop that kind of exercise."
Though Huang came to the U.S. in pursuit of an education, he found much more. He found friends. He found freedom, and he found religion.
"When I arrived in the United States, I (got to) know God," he said. "That is the very important thing I got in this land."
Huang said a friend took him to church and introduced him to a God that was not like what he had heard of in his native China.
"In the church in the United States, we talk about the love. God's love. And people love each other," he said.
Religion in China was very different and tended to focus more on uncivilized behaviors, anger and violence among people - at least that was Huang's experience. He didn't grow up in church and was never introduced to the gospel until moving to the United States.
"That's amazing," he said. "When I first attended worship, Sunday worship, and sung the songs, I feel filled, and feel tears in my eye. I don't know why."
Huang soon became a Christian and said God has had a huge impact on his life.
"The first thing is God knows me and God lead me to fulfill my dreams and lead me to the right way to live," Huang said. "Previously in China, because of China's education, we focused on the man's effort to fulfill the dreams. But after I know God, I think the Father has a plan for me. I also need to do something, but God have a plan for me. I just need to follow God's plan and do those things."
While Huang said his relationship with God has changed him spiritually, it has also had a more apparent change in his life, as well.
"I feel my temper has also changed a lot," he said, "... especially when teaching."
He explained that teaching in China was based on getting the desired results through anger and forcing students to learn. With the change in his life and his surroundings he has found that encouraging students rather than getting angry at them is a more beneficial way to approach education.
"We encourage students to learn," he said. "It changed me a lot. I feel I am nicer, much nicer than in China."
With his newly minted citizenship, Huang proudly waves the banner of the United States. He says he feels full of pride when singing the National Anthem and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. For Huang and his family, this July 4 is special. He said they will be decked out in star-spangled t-shirts, taking in the fireworks display and celebrating Independence Day as United States citizens.
Jonathan Petty serves as Director of Communications at Wayland Baptist University.