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The Chinese Student, Term Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1755

Term Paper

Having a strong sense of self makes people appear intelligent, confident and capable.  Identity markers, either ones that we have selected or have been chosen for us, have a strong influence on how we view ourselves.  Since coming to the United States to receive my education, my both my identity and sense of self has dramatically changed.  I am now defined by others as a Chinese student.  However, while this identity marker does not describe me completely, the fact that I am affected both socially and academically, impacts how I feel about myself.  My Chinese upbringing has shaped me, and this is strongly evident as to how I react to many situations in the United States.  However, the negative perceptions that others place upon me, especially due to the language, is very discouraging.

Being raised in China, I was exposed to a different set of religions, as opposed to the United States, where Christianity is dominant.  I am Buddhist and as such, tend to have a more accepting view of people as individuals.  Most Buddhists are taught not to judge others who are different.  My attitude towards my superiors is another major difference as a result of being raised in China. While this is a generalization, I feel that people in China are taught to be more respectful in their manners.  Chinese people value hard work both professionally and academically.  The purpose of this paper is to explore my identity as a Chinese student in the United States has impacted me personally, academically, and in relation to other cultures in New York City.

I never thought of myself as Chinese until I came to the United States to pursue my education.  While being a strong student and achieving academic success was always a component in my identity, I never thought that I would stand out simply because I was Chinese.  There seemed to be so much more of what defined me when I was growing up in China.  As a result, I feel that I can be more of my true self when I am with friends who are also from China.  My friends from China are not trying to classify me as a “Chinese person.”  To them, there is no need to get overcome the barrier of being Chinese, because they from China as well.

In this class, we learned about the social construction identity in New York.  We had the opportunity to learn about the different cultures and how they all fit into the city’s “melting pot.”  I went on three fieldtrips where was exposed to the different cultures present in New York City: Harlem, the East Greenwich Village, and the Museum of Sex.  All three of these fieldtrips brought out different emotions and aspects of my being a Chinese student.  On the fieldtrip to Harlem, I kept my experience concentrated from the corner of East 116th street and 2nd Avenue, and did not venture much farther than Frederick Douglass Boulevard.  I had heard about the high crime rates, and was initially concerned.  I was worried that the stigma of my being Chinese would make me stand out, as I have heard that Harlem consists of a mostly African American and Latino population.  However, I found that even though I received some strange looks, most of the people were kind and helpful.  No one made fun of me or the way that I spoke.  Perhaps because the people in Harlem have suffered much discrimination, they feel that they will not subject anyone else to it.  Even though I am neither Latino or African American, I can understand some of the discrimination that they have faced by simply being a minority in the United States.

The East Greenwich Village was a completely different experience for me, and I felt very accepted.  While Harlem definitely labeled me as “Chinese,” in the multicultural East Greenwich Village, I did not feel that I stood out at all.  Being here allowed me to truly express inner self, and I did not have to play the part of the Chinese student.  I could simply be.

Visiting the Museum of Sex was a different experience for me.  In China, we are somewhat more reserved about expressing affection and definitely more private regarding our sexual activities.  While I can appreciate the freedom of expression, as a Chinese student, this culture shock disrupts my sense of identity.  Though in its disruption, I find myself clinging to the fact that I am Chinese and do not engage in these behaviors quite so openly.

There are certain difficulties with being a Chinese student.  The language issue has been particularly challenging.  While I am considered “fluent” in both reading and writing English, there are many times when I have experience difficulties in communication.  When I am out socially with my American friends, they will tell jokes that I do not understand, simply because I was not taught the informal English language.  They do explain the jokes to me if I ask, but I usually smile and keep silent.  Another area that language creates difficulty is in school.  While most of my professors are understanding that English is not my first language, some of them seem to discriminate against me, and act like my words make no sense.  The main stigma of having Chinese be my native language, is that a lot of Americans look at me as though I am stupid.  I tell myself that they only understand one language and to not let this bother me.  However, the stigma that this carries makes me question my worthiness.  Goffman’s writing appeals to me, because in order for me to be successful academically, I must take on the role of the performer.  I have to pretend like it does not matter when someone makes a joke at my expense or when a professor expresses open frustration at me and refuses to repeat themselves if I have a question.  I relax my body, keeping my shoulders down, and paste a big smile on my face.  I will say after reading Goffman’s work, I am concerned that others will view my performance as fake.  Fortunately, my friends who are Chinese and from other countries seem to understand this performance.  I see many of them put on a similar show as well.  We do not judge each other, because we understand the humiliation and the attempts to avoid it.

There are benefits to the identity of being a Chinese student.  Right away, I was able to form a bond with other students who were also foreign, simply because we were having the same struggles.  Even though my sense of self-worth has been shaken, I am stronger because I know that I am able to succeed in a foreign environment.  The necessity to overcome adversity has made me a survivor, and I know that this skill will benefit me when I begin my profession.  My English has improved since studying in the United States, and this will allow me greater opportunities upon graduation.  Being a Chinese student has increased my compassion and sense of duty to overcome prejudice.  If I never would have left China to study abroad, I would not have experienced the prejudice of being a “foreigner” and speaking a different language.  While I have always been accepting of people who are different from me in the past, I now know that it is crucial to take the extra step and make them feel welcome.  The experience in Harlem showed me that sometimes the people who are the most discriminated against are the ones who will go out of their way to make you feel accepted if you are different.

Because I developed my inner self before I came to the United States to study, I am not attached to the role of the Chinese student.  I am well aware that this role has been placed on me and will no longer apply to me upon my graduation.  If I return to China, the identity marker will completely terminate; if I stay in the United States, I will be better able to associate myself with individuals who will not discriminate as much.

My situation is not unique and similar events happen to many people who travel to foreign countries to study or work.  The discrimination against me is partially due to ingroup bias.  This occurs when professors become aggravated if I have to ask more questions because English is not my first language.  They feel, though probably would never admit, that they are superior over me, because they possess a skill that I do not.  Sometimes I think that my some of my American friends may feel a sort of ingroup bias.  I would like to ask them about this, but do not because I would rather not create conflict.  Both of these situations bring out the performer in me.  Everything is happy and I am always smiling.  While I am a usually happy person, I do not feel happy when I am the recipient of ingroup bias.

Studying in the United States has forced me to take on the role of a Chinese student.  However, I am choosing to allow this to be an opportunity for self-discovery.  When I was in China, I did not appreciate the fact that people liked or disliked me for the person I truly was.  Now, the need to constantly overcome the role of the “Chinese student” has made me realize the value of who I am inside.  In the 2015 article Thinking about Change in the Self and Others: The Role of Self-Discovery Metaphors and the True Self, by Bench, Schelgel, Davis, and Vess, they conclude that positive changes were more likely to be associated with self-discovery.  I disagree.  Some of my experiences as a Chinese student were positive, but others were negative.  Yet I feel that I have been able to use both as a means for self-discovery.  No matter what happens, or what identity is assigned to me by other people, I have a strong sense of who I am inside and no one can damage my sense of self-worth if I do not allow them.  This fact became very evident on my fieldtrip to Harlem.  Even though many people in Harlem faced discrimination and lived in poverty, they were friendly and kind, and found different ways to express themselves in the form of urban art.  While it is difficult to keep your sense of self-worth in the face of discrimination, it is possible to overcome the negative energies and preserve the person who you know yourself to be.

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