By Daniel Morgenstern – HCC intern
The journey that all foreign students and scholars who visit the Hospitality Center for Chinese (HCC) have endured is more than many Americans could handle. Here are five hurdles Chinese have to jump on their way to college graduation:
The first obstacle is the language barrier. Every step of the process requires at least a rudimentary ability to comprehend and communicate in a completely foreign language. Not to mention that English, with its Germanic vocabulary and French grammar, is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Thankfully most Asian students have studied English for years, so they have a baseline to work with. They may not be comfortable with the language, but given time, most can communicate effectively.
Next, they must navigate their way through the complex bureaucratic system of getting permission to stay in America. They do get support from Chinese officials and friends, but they are still trying to get into the United States, which, as many can attest, is not always the easiest prospect. Most Americans dread going to the DMV to get their license renewed, but that’s child’s play in comparison.
Having cleared two of the most imposing barriers, an international Chinese student is plunged into another whirlwind. Choosing the right location, whether to live on or off campus, and navigating the paperwork all involve questions and pitfalls that the student likely doesn’t have avenues to seek help. Many students arrive and find that the housing plans they thought were set in stone have now fallen through, and they no longer have a place to stay.
You all knew this one was coming. The large difference in culture complicates every step of life and preparation in the United States for a Chinese student. From small awkward interactions to damaging misunderstandings, these Chinese students constantly have to stay ready to patch up relationships and adapt. Worst of all, this obstacle cannot be conquered quickly. The Chinese student will likely be dealing with cultural difficulties for their entire stay in America.
Friends and Connections
The most daunting of all for most of the students I have talked to is finding friends and getting plugged into the community. The average Chinese student will have limited contact with American students. When they do have an actual conversation, the language barrier and cultural differences return with a vengeance. The student will be able to carry on a fairly complex conversation, but jokes and references to pop culture will not often connect with them. The American needs to be patient and be willing to learn about the other person, a combination that rarely makes an appearance in college students.
This is where HCC comes in.
The interactions and friendships that develop out of events at HCC may be the closest the Chinese students get to real, deep relationship with an American.
Even with all these difficulties, most Chinese students that I have spoken with love their time in America. Their experience in and out of the classroom prepare them for a successful career. But it is the friendships and memories they make in the United States are the real treasure.