Vagrant Fudan University alumnus arouses sympathy and help
A Fudan University alumnus who is living on the streets of New York as a vagrant has become an Internet sensation after a video about him spread online.
In the video, which is nine minutes 38 seconds long, the 54-year-old man Sun Weidong, with grey hair and sparse teeth, tells a blogger that he is from Jiangyin City of Jiangsu Province, China, and that he has lived in the United States for more than 30 years. He graduated from Fudan with a bachelor's degree in physics, and then acquired masters and doctoral degrees in the US.
He said that he had worked as a post-doctoral researcher for two years and then a software engineer at a Wall Street company for another two years with an annual pay of US$130,000 to US$140,000. He is now an American citizen.
He said he became homeless in 2007 and moved to Brooklyn. He said he first slept in Internet cafes in the evening and later on the streets.
"In summer, I sleep on benches on the streets," he said. "But now it's winter, it's too cold. So I go to subway stations. I usually have some bread for breakfast and lunch, and skip supper."
He said his life fell into disarray shortly after his devastating divorce and he faced hardship as he had been "captivated by loneliness and illusion".
"I cannot tell illusion from reality," he said.
He added that police had told him to go to shelters but he refused as they were far away.
When the blogger persuaded him to look for a job, he repeated that he would have a rest for several months and then would get employed easily.
After the blogger posted the video online, some former classmates identified him as Sun.
The Fudan Alumni Association of USA in New York released a statement on Saturday, confirming Sun is a Fudan graduate. It said a volunteer team has been established to help him.
According to the association, he had been visited on Thursday, and moved into a temporary residence on Friday with help from other Fudan alumni and people from Jiangyin.
Jiupai reported that the classmates said Sun was an outstanding student. He had studied at Nanjing Senior High School, the most famous high school in Jiangyin, for only one year and was admitted into Fudan via a program for gifted teenagers in 1985.
He went to study in the US with a scholarship via the China-U.S. Physics Examination and Application program, which was initiated by Chinese-born American physicist Tsung-Dao Lee. Tsung-Dao shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1958 with Chen-Ning Yang for their work in discovering violations of the principle of parity conservation. It's said that Sun had published several papers in top science journals.
Sun expressed his wishes to come back to China, according to Jiupai.
Many web users said it's a pity that such a well-educated person has become a vagrant. Some discussed what had caused his tragedy, such as metal health and ability to withstand misfortune.
"I wonder what had happened to him, but his story does remind me again that academic learning is only a small part in the lifelong growth of a person," said a Weibo user. "Comprehensive capability, including the ability of handling setbacks, is more important."