Chinese students express the desire in unifying the student body
Cultural barriers can be as simple as a nice car.
There is a stereotype that Chinese students drive nice cars, but similar to all stereotypes — there’s more to the story.
Wan Wang, a Chinese senior studying graphics and animation, said many Chinese students purchase cars in America because in China they are too expensive.
“They can buy a really good car here with less money,” Wang said. “Chinese like new cars because used cars seem less safe.”
This is just one of many ways that Wang said she feels the Chinese population at Ohio University feels separated from the rest of the students on campus. Almost 2,000 students come from different countries across the globe to study at Ohio University each year. Of those, 920 are from China.
The Ohio University Office for Diversity and Inclusion said in its vision statement that it “will seamlessly and effectively integrate diversity initiatives into every facet of university life.”
Although cultural immersion is a goal with study abroad programs, many of these students feel stereotypes and language barriers make it difficult for American and Chinese students to form friendships.
While diversity at OU is everywhere, some don’t find it to be as seamless as it could be.
“This can be applied more to Chinese students on campus,” said Hashim Pashtun, vice president of Graduate Student Senate and an international student from Afghanistan. “Most of them want to hang out with their own kind of countrymen. Chinese have a good example because they have a good majority, and don’t feel attracted to the local students.”
Wang said she didn’t come to America to just ignore everyone but other Chinese students on campus.
“When I leave, I don’t want to regret that,” Wang said.
The Chinese students were, at one point, interested in expanding their friendships to Americans, Wang said. As the year continued on, opportunities became more slim for students to step out of the comfort level to meet new people.
“I tried to make friends with American students, but that is very difficult. The culture is too different sometimes,” Wang said. “The language is ever changing, and I feel sad that it is this way. Eventually you just run out of things to talk about.”
Another Chinese student, Jiaoying (Leyla) Jiang, a senior studying economics and political science, said she had an easier time communicating with American students.
“Because I speak and talk loud, I engage more,” Jiang said. “I have already adjusted to American culture and I appreciate American culture after I have a deeper and deeper understanding of this society.”
Every student’s experience is different, Jiang said.
“Of course, I cannot represent all of the Chinese students on campus,” Jiang said. “I just think for other Chinese students, it’s very different to blend socially. Humor is different, language. It’s really, really difficult for these two cultures to become immersed.”
Pashtun said this concern has a great deal to do with indigenous students having no desire to offend the international ones. Many questions that are asked are safe questions, which cannot trigger antagonized reactions.
“It’s hard to just join in on making new American friends. I really want to communicate,” Wang said. “If I go to a American party, at first it would seem interesting, and they are really good people. They are willing to talk with me, but eventually the basic questions run out. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, in a wrong way.”
Andie Moore, a junior studying psychology and African studies, said she has talked with one Chinese student before, and the stereotypes that go along with Chinese students do not affect her.
“Personally, I don’t have any predetermined stereotypes about Chinese students. I think they travel in groups because it’s in their comfort zone,” Moore said. “I don’t think stereotypes are true, so I try my best to avoid them.”
Jieli Li, society professor at OU, said building relationships is a two-way street, and should not be just on the students.
“These two sides should make the effort and be willing to be understanding and tolerating,” Li said. “They need to be aware that inverting back to themselves is no way to have this cultural competence. The university should be responsible in creating more opportunity for Americans and international students to socialize and have this necessary awareness.”