Adapting To American Culture As A Chinese Student

Bernard Wang

(Note: I was born and raised in the U.S. until I was 10, moved to Beijing and attended local school for 5 years, then came back to America for high school and college. I have experienced culture shock and discrimination upon entry into Beijing and re-entry into America, but eventually gained acceptance into society each time and made a bunch of great local friends in both places.)

Let me start with a personal story: One time in college, I roomed with a group of students who were all non-Asian, who all grew up in America. They lived with one another before, and at the time, I was the only one new to the group. The housing staff sent a email to them saying that “Bernard Wang”(me) would be their new roommate, and upon noticing my Chinese last name, they began to mock me. In the group text, they joked that I would stay in my room and play video games all day, never socialize with anyone, sleep at 10 PM every night, and even joked that they should all move out because of me – after only seeing my Chinese last name from an email. Eventually, after meeting one another, we all became very close, and the jokes came out. When I first heard about these jokes, I was a bit disappointed in my roommates, but decided not to hold it against any of them and use it as an opportunity to, instead, teach them about my culture instead.

Racism against foreign Asian students, especially Chinese students, is becoming a prevalent social issue for many high-ranking U.S. institutions. There has been a mass influx of highly capable foreign students from China coming in, partly due to institutions using higher foreign tuition rates as a means to obtain more money, partly due to the U.S. wanting to attract more STEM workers, and partly due to the general academic excellence of Chinese students who come in, and a plethora of other reasons. However, there is a huge cultural chasm between the local students and the foreign Chinese students, resulting in distant American and Chinese social circles. At the end of the day, this issue is a two way street, with local American students unwilling to socially accept foreign Chinese students, but also foreign Chinese students culturally maladjusted to integrate into American social circles.