Advice for friends and family of Chinese students abroad
This is the latest posting on Danwei in a series about Chinese school life. It’s a translation of a popular posting on the social network Renren.
The image is a bottle of Laoganma (老干妈), a type of chili sauce mentioned in the posting. Laoganma is popular amongst Chinese students abroad for rendering barbarian food edible. The name Laoganma mean “old godmother”.
If you know someone who is studying abroad
If you ever know someone who is studying abroad, then congratulations, your life may suffer because of this person. However, if you care about him or her, read on.
1. When you see their online albums of exotic scenery, western food, and the student in intimate positions with foreigners, please do not sneer, as (the photos) may be meant for their families who want to learn about their beloved’s life. And this is probably all the fun the person can get from his days and setting up photo albums is the quickest and most convenient way to keep people who care about them updated on their life.
2. When you see them whining about hardship, please do not despise them. Homework is really hard and competition is really fierce.
3. Never say “Don’t come back” to them. When you are abroad, you will know how demonized China is and even the dusty air (of China) is so sweet. No matter how wonderful life is out there, when we wake up, we miss the time we spent with friends singing KTV and eating hot pot. Not that we are spoiled kids, the best thing about life is speaking your own language on your own land. So please tell them: Come home when you get tired and the door is always open for you.
4. Please do not say “Oh, I envy you that you can go abroad, you are enjoying all the benefits of capitalism and you are whining too much.” You don’t know how hard it is to stay up late to cram for tests. Those kids that study abroad are spending their parents’ communist wages in a capitalist world. Unless you are doing a PHD, you will be exploited by the capitalist system, leading a life harder than the most underprivileged in the society, even though you are supposed to be middle-class back home.
5. Please do not say “Only the losers come back.” Many of those who return to China received a sound education, learned to speak perfect English, and were able to fully integrate into mainstream of American society. And even for them, coming back to China is not a bad choice.
6. Do not consider complaining as a sign of weakness. If a person in a different time zone calls you to tell you that he or she really wants to go home or change their major, it must be that the person is under a lot of stress and he or she doesn’t want to worry their mom and dad. They only need someone to agree with them that life is tough and to encourage him or her to carry on and persevere, so when they wake up the next morning, they will be able to fight on with renewed energy.
7. Do not think that they had it easy. Please show these 20-year-old young people a little bit understanding, because if you don’t, no one else will. There is still a long way to go and they need time to grow. The bitterness of studying abroad is not from the plight of frozen food swallowed down with Laoganma (a Chinese chili sauce many Chinese students abroad are fond of). It is not just having only three or four hours of sleep a day and a hellish load of homework to complete on the computer. The bitterness is not just from having to think about saving money while living in a shabby place, tramping in the snow to school and unable to afford a car. Nor is it from speaking English badly, or because the Chinese people are discriminated against. It’s not even from being thousands of miles away from your loved ones.
The bitterness is because the time zone difference and school hours make it hard to call their parents when they get a message “Missing you”; it’s from having to hang up the phone in order to finish homework. It is when you burn your hand, you have to nurse it alone and silently because you don’t want people back at home to get worried.
When you say “I really miss home,” you know they will tell you on the phone “You will get used to it. You will be fine.” It seems that your plight is something people around you do not care about, and people who are distant do not understand.
Links and sources:
Original posting on Renren: 如果你认识一个正在留学中的孩子
Danwei: Confessions of a Chinese graduate, Chinese students living in fear in the USA, Notes from a Chinese student in the USA, Study abroad websites for Chinese students, Opening the door to American universities with lies