We all once dreamed of going to the Hogwarts

You tackled the common stereotypes associated with the Chinese students in the US. What would be the hallmark message you try to convey through your videos?

  • That the Chinese students may seem self-segregating, but they in fact really want to reach out and experience the American college life to its fullest. It would be a bullshit, excuse me! to say, “oh I don’t care, I am fine within my cozy  bubble and there’s no need to make more American friends.” Because then you wouldn’t have applied to the US colleges in the first place.
    What’s hindering them from actively engaging is their anxietiesㅡand those anxieties are natural if you think about it. Not many of us speak the most fluent English to begin with; often time we do not share the same sports or entertainment codes. It also needs to be taken into consideration that the Chinese students were usually brought up as an only child(due to the one-child policy), and they likely come from socioeconomically privileged backgrounds with high parental expectations to perform well.
    All of these work as a huge stress factor, when they suddenly find themselves alone in a world with little support system. It would be unfair to single us out when we have come to America risking all this, which takes lots of courage. So it will be a missed opportunity for both American and Chinese students if there are no attempts made to promote mutual understanding.

Now I am curious, since I’m Korean: Did you feel this goes the same with other minority students of Asian nationalities, say, the Koreans? I know they are quite known for self-segregating too.

  • (laughs) So actually, this is something I would like to confirm with you. A Korean friend of mine back at UW told me that the Korean students generally just don’t care, for real. She said they mostly feel perfectly fine and secure being around themselves until they get their degrees and fly back home. Is that true in your opinion? I guess it is good for them because they feel less anxious about their place? that they are very confident in themselves?

(laughs hard) This is a little embarrassing, but I can see where your friend was coming from. Just to play the devil’s advocate here…I think this apparent confidence, if not apathy, has to do with the fact that recent Korean students hold relatively less anticipation and fantasy about going to school in America than the Chinese do.
The trend of mass study-abroad to English-speaking institutions goes back a little longer in Korea, and for the lack of better words, the oversupply of these American educated graduates has diluted their job prospects, prestige, et cetera for past 10-20 yearsㅡand remember Korea is a much smaller country than China. The young Korean students noticed this changed landscape in terms of how no longer marketable their degrees are at home. Perhaps they are reacting to this rather disheartening reality by being inactive and apathetic to the larger school communityㅡwhich is of course, a bad thing. 

  • Yes, that is a rather unfortunate course of development. I think it is time for everyone to redefine the meaning of studying abroad in a more holistic approach.
    Education is a long-term investment, unlike investing in stocks which involves calculating the expected rate of rY. American higher education is unarguably costly, and if you try to evaluate it solely within that monetary input-output paradigm, it wouldn’t be a really profitable business unless you were an exceptionally successful finance or engineering major from the Ivys. Studying abroad is no longer a short-cut to success in Asia. Oftentimes, it can be the opposite.
    But when you put yourself out there in unfamiliar lands to truly pursue the knowledge and experiences that you wouldn’t have otherwise had, it will accelerate your growing-up. Your worldview widens; and you develop skills to resolve conflicts and communicate better with people from different backgrounds and value systems. Most importantly, you are stronger, mature, and more resilient than ever when facing difficulties.

Wow, I wanted to hear something like this from somebody, as I was having those post-graduate moments of doubts where you ask yourself, “Was all of it really worth it?” Now, this is my last ‘prepared’ interview question for you: Did you have chances to interact with non-American foreign nationals in your age group before going to America? What about in the US?

  • Not many. I definitely had more chances to interact with students from all over the world face-to-face in the US, which was very lucky of me. But I can say for sure that I never really had a chance to enjoy a lengthy conversation with other Koreans at  UW like we do now. (laughs)

(laughs) I am very honored to be your first!

  • I did have this impression that they were very kin to their traditional culture and heritage. The Korean students in Madison would showcase this fascinating drum dance, which left a vivid impression about them as a group. But in the end of the day, it comes to the point where the nationalities do not mean much, as long as we  are friends to each other, person-to-person.

Cecilia writes to China Buzz Report and Medium, among others.

Byunghun

Byunghun

Founder, editor-in-chief