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szdaily -> Hit Bravo
Shade under the sunshine
     2011-May-25  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Jack(戴云起)

Studying abroad sounds cool. You can take interesting classes, meet nice and profound professors, hot girls, or maybe boys. An overseas education will probably give you a better future, and the experience of living abroad could have all kinds of advantages. You will be able to learn a different culture. Things seem bright, don't they?

Well, I would say that something awful is also waiting for you. Yes, I used the word "awful" and I meant it.

The first difficulty I encounter is alienation, or maybe the feeling of being rootless. After staying in the United States for a long time, I've started to feel that many friends in China are not as close to me as they used to be. This is frustrating, especially when I realize that it is inevitable that there is less and less time we can spend together.

Then I realize that this alienation doesn't only happen between my friends and me, but also between China and me. If I study in the United States for a long enough time, I will feel uncomfortable when I go back to China. I feel something makes me feel slightly odd; not sure what it is, could be the air, environment, the way people socialize, or perspective. I am almost certain that this disposition will get worse as I spend more time in the United States.

The worst part is, I don't feel that comfortable in the United States either! I sometimes feel I can't fit into my American friends' circle. Then where do I belong? Somewhere between China and the United States, but not accepted by either? I am like a small piece of leaf blowing around in the wind, not knowing where to go.

Oh, of course that isn't the end. Another issue is self-identity. We all agree that we get to know who we are by listening to other people. For example, we will think that we are smart if many people admire our intelligence.

When I was in China, everything was clear. If you get a good grade and you are friendly and helpful, most of the time, you will have pretty decent social capital. Done, clear, easy. However, when I come to the United States, I have no idea what is valued in my school. Definitely not grades, because there are a lot of students who don't care in the slightest about grades. Not sport either, because nothing changed after I won four tennis matches in a row.

Then, who am I? Am I just an average student? I don't want to be generic. Everyone wants to be outstanding. Unfortunately, I still can't figure out what my school values and what makes an outstanding student in my school.

Once I asked my English teacher this question, I remember her response was that "from the perspective of an adult, the school values those who have confidence in who they are." Well, from the perspective of an adult? That doesn't sound like the way students think.

The last one is the real challenge, the one really disturbing me. Racism or prejudice is always the biggest problem. Prejudice always exists. People from southern America are usually considered stupid. What about China? Well, much worse.

Once I was having lunch with a group of American students, eating chicken wings. Most of them grabbed the wings with fingers but because I didn't want to get my fingers sticky, I would usually use a fork. That day, using a fork seemed for once to be the uncivilized thing to do.

Seeing that I was using a fork, a sophomore sneered: "Why can't you Chinese be more civilized and eat properly?"

I calmly asked: "How do you define 'properly' then? Getting your hand sticky?"

He relied: "The British way is the civilized way." I knew his argument couldn't stand, so I kept pushing him: "Why is the British way civilized?"

"Because Britain has a long history."

He said exactly what I wanted him to say. "Ah, Britain is civilized because Britain has long history. Well, China has a much longer history than Britain. Does it mean everyone who doesn't eat with chopsticks is uncivil?"

As I expected, he didn't know what to say. The frustrating moment took place. He left and murmured: "You Chinese are uncivil. That's it!"

I shut my mouth. I bet my face was red. Blood was flowing and I felt anger fill my chest. Nothing changed. His prejudices against Chinese will not be changed even though I won the argument. Prejudice is powerful and painful. No matter how many times I prove them wrong, nothing will change. The prejudice is still there, without even a slight improvement.

Studying abroad is very cool. It will be an interesting and brilliant experience. I never regret studying in high school here. However, I think everyone should confront the fact that there will be shade under the sunshine. Learning more about it before making the decision is always a wise thing to do.

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