Why It’s Difficult to Be a Chinese Student in America

When Yang Shuping delivered her graduation speech at the University of Maryland, she gave a controversial remark about America’s fresh air and freedom of speech which Chinese netizens didn’t take lightly, seeing her as “belittling” her own country.

According to South China Morning Post, after her eight-minute speech, Shuping received criticisms most especially from people back at home in China. Shuping’s words opened an avenue for debate about the dilemma that overseas Chinese students are facing regarding finding the perfect balance of embracing their new-found life in another country while maintaining their ties to their homeland.

Now, all anger and ridicule are directed at Shuping who “was only saying what the American audience wanted to hear.”

“Her words caused all the Chinese people who were present to feel embarrassed. Even though everyone knows China has lots of aspects that are not good, they refuse to be mocked by foreigners,” said master’s degree student at New York University, Lin Hanjing.

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Another student named Lucy Gao from Washington University in St. Louis criticized Shuping and said that she shouldn’t have said “bad things” about China especially in front of an audience with several biases on the Asian country.

But there are also those who understood Shuping’s intention. Dartmouth College graduate, Zhang Qian said:

“We complain about this country a lot when we’re back home in China. That’s just what you do – it’s like your family. When you’re with your family you argue, but when you’re with other people you defend your family.”

In 2015, there were approximately 800,000 Chinese students scattered overseas and almost half of them chose to pursue their education in the United States, revealed a data gathered by Unesco. But those who are back home in China has this stereotypical perception of international Chinese students as those who “do not love their own country.”

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After being cyberbullied online, Shuping decided to deactivate her social media accounts.

A professor from the University of California at Riverside, Perry Link, remarked that Shuping is being scolded because of what she said about China even though most Chinese people know what she said was right.

Nowadays, anything could end up being misspoken or misunderstood and any topic can spread like wildfire online which is exactly what is happening to Shuping who only talked about certain facts and experiences she had back home. So, while she may appear brave and outspoken to others in the United States, many of her countrymen are calling her a traitor.

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