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  • Xianduo Zhao

Overseas Study

It has been four and a half years since I came to this country for furthering my education. These four years have created an abundance of memories that I hold dear to: some are of success, and some are of painful moments of defeat. If you would compare me from when I first arrived in the States to now, most people would find it difficult to believe that we are the same person. I feel like I have been fundamentally changed by my time here. In most people's eyes, studying overseas is a valuable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a person to experience a different culture in a deep and engaging way. Some might even describe studying overseas as an unforgettable journey, or even as a long, winding path of self-discovery. While it is true that oversea studies are incredibly valuable in that they provide students with new perspectives regarding their environment and themselves, I've come to realize that this idealistic view of studying abroad does not always align with reality.

Despite being often romanticized, the full immersion of another culture can sometimes be extremely taxing. As exciting as it is to eat different foods and speak a different language, everyone misses home sometimes; I've found that after months of eating American good, I end up craving the dishes cooked by my parents at home the most. Additionally, due to huge differences in time-zone, cultural customs, and academic schedules, it is hard to consistently connect with family and culture in the home countries of these international students. The documentary Finding Yingying, moved me greatly: not only was Zhang Yingying murdered in a country that was supposed to protect her, but her diary shows how isolated and lonely she felt due to the difficulties in connecting with her family and friends back home. Finding Yingying helped me realize how much my parents might worry about me while I'm in a foreign country, and I try to call them more often to update them on how I'm doing here. This is a common feeling experienced by international students, and I was no exception. It has been merely four years since I've left my home country, but I already feel an invisible barrier between me and my friends in China: we use different internet slang, consume different medias, and have different struggles in our respective environments. I found myself having difficulty maintaining conversation with even some of my closest friends, and I greatly miss having endless topics to talk about them with. Studying overseas creates a physical distance between the student and their past communities, and with that comes an invisible social distance as well.

So why do people choose to study overseas if it comes at a cost of a person's connection with their family and friends? Everyone has a different reason for going abroad. In the past, students like Yung Wing travelled overseas to seek knowledge that would better their countries, acting as messengers of culture and stored intelligence. Nowadays, it might be the pursuit of better education, or even for the novelty of a different lifestyle. At least for me, it provides me with a chance to shape my life with my own hands and create my own opportunities. It has been four and a half years here, and I can't wait to see where my trajectory takes me.

"Glasses on a Map of Europe", from Latvia Stock Photo.

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