College Connect: Clashing cultures when you go to college

By Runjie Wang

 “That makes sense to me. That Porsche belongs to a Chinese!”

Americans have stereotypes that every Chinese student here is extravagant and squanders away his or her parents’ money. So do many people in China. Even worse, some internet trolls in my country always satirize that we, students studying abroad, are too rich to know where to spend.

However, not everyone from China has fancy cars here. From a very normal middle-class family, I am so grateful that my parents gave me this extraordinary opportunity to know the unknown. Unlike many western families, we are still financially supported by our parents after we technically became an adult. However, this connection shackled me throughout my life. My parents had the final say on my all decisions from career choices, marriage to the clothes I should wear. They paid for them. Sometimes I felt like the girl from Lady Bird spoke up for me: “I’m gonna get older and make a lot of money and write you a check and never speak to you again.”

Also, they lead a life which is not frugal but prosaic. We always had conversations on the phone call like “why can’t you know media can monitor the government in America?” and “why can’t you know people like to drink coffee in America?”

Definitely they can’t, because I spend around $25,000 for tuition fees and an equal amount for living expenses in a year at the cost of possibilities for them to travel and explore from pre-civilization Egypt to Amazon jungles so that they can ask the “why can’t you” questions to me as I did to them.

Indeed, it costs an arm and a leg to study here in America. And in 2017, the increase on average tuition and fees charged by public and private colleges rose between 2.9% and 3.6%, according to The College Board report. I came from a country where people are paid on average three times less than those in America but I have to spend money in dollars. It defies my math ability to calculate the CPI for Chinese international students like me. “The prices are actually the same as in China. But they are in the U.S. dollars (note: 1 US dollar equals around 6.3 Chinese Yuan),” people in my communities often quipped.

The moment I got on board flying to America, I told myself that I would try my best to be financially independent. I sent out 10 resumes until I finally got my job at the university library. However, I found out that it was utterly inadequate to cover my living expenses, let alone the tuition fee.

Finally, I realized that it is unlikely to be completely independent of my parents in college. It seems like the only way to pay them back is to study hard so that I can get a decent job with handsome salary.

My so-called “American Dream” was disillusioned when Trump began his presidency with a string of policies penetrated by xenophobia. Convoluted and bureaucratic procedures of H1B visa application swamp many employed students who are disheartened by inexplicable rejection. Published in New York Times, Chinese student Frida Yu’s story disturbed me a lot. She joined a start-up in Silicon Valley with a Master’s degree in law at the University of Oxford and a Stanford MBA degree. However, she was rejected by immigration office; on top of that, she was also asked to leave the country within 60 days. Her work involves artificial intelligence and big data, and her letters of recommendation from a Nobel Prize winner. But it still wasn’t enough to convince the administration that she is a highly-skilled personnel. And I don’t get it.

It actually didn’t comfort me when my mom spoke to me on the phone that she definitely didn’t think it is necessarily important for me to find a way to pay them back. As I mentioned earlier, Chinese parents always financially support their children. But I don’t want to be a hypocrite who justifies myself as being a Chinese when asking for money from my parents while excuses myself for living in America when asking for freedom.

Runjie Wang is a senior at the University of Missouri.

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