Breaking the Mold

Dawnyshia Griffin
12 October 2014


Image credit: blogspot

So you have a strong drive, you may not know exactly where you are headed but you are determined to get there. You feel the weight of other’s expectations and your unique story seems to separate you from your peers. These are feelings that Zhenxi Qi is quite accustomed too. If you have similar feelings you may find a sense of camaraderie with Zhenxi. If these thoughts seem foreign to you, Zhenxi’s story could help you understand how unconventional and international students feel.

Zhenxi is a third year Study Abroad student from College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, USA. She studies Sociology and International studies with a focus on international development. She lived in Japan until she was six, and then studied in China until age seventeen before pursuing her higher education in the United States. Her specific interests are in poverty alleviation and gender equality and she hopes to work with NGOs in the future.

Dawnyshia: So to start off with, how do your parents view your education?

Zhenxi: Well, it’s a little confusing. Both of my parents studied abroad and got degrees. They wanted me to have an international education too, but there was not much pressure to do that. They did not really pressure me to pursue a higher education but there was pressure from other areas. They emphasized the importance of my nationality and staying true to where I come from. There was pressure to make money and uphold family values. My dad is quite traditional. He focused on me becoming an ideal woman, a good wife to my future husband. In my father’s words, “If you can land a good marriage, it’s not necessary to attain higher education”. My mother, however, saw the importance of me living my own life. If I go to graduate school I know my father will not be happy with it. My education is important to me because I really want to help people, promote justice, and contribute to society.

Dawnyshia:  How do you relate to your Chinese friends?

Zhenxi: Well most of my friends in China are studying abroad as well. I went to private school so my friends and I are more liberal than what may be typical. They focus more on dating than I do though. In China, dating without the intent to marry is seen as a waste of time. About the time that you turn twenty, you feel a little more pressure. Even though my friends are open-minded, I do feel different from them because I feel as if I’m the most liberal among them.

Dawnyshia: How do you see yourself as liberal?

Zhenxi: Well, I really believe in making an example out of yourself for causes that you believe in. I’m a strong ally for the LGBT community. While our generation is more liberal than our parent’s generation, being LGBT is still stigmatized and it’s evident in the way people joke about it. It’s the same way with racism. My friends can make raced-based jokes. Although the jokes are meant to be light-hearted, due to the history behind them they can actually be hurtful. I think having lived abroad longer than them, I have a different perspective because I’ve experienced racism. If you live in your own country around people of the same race, you may not be as sensitive to it. Additionally, some of the people I know seem focused on getting a higher education in order to go work on Wall Street. They are driven by money. I myself, am not motivated by money, there are other ways I want to get fulfilment from my life, like international development.

Dawnyshia: How about your friends in America?

Zhenxi: Well I’m friends with many of them because we hold the same, liberal, values. These shared values makes it easier to get along with them, but at the same time, I don’t really fit in because they don’t have the same experience as I have.

Dawnyshia: How does this affect you?

Zhenxi: Well it feels as if I’m marginalized. I don’t really fit in with my American friends because I do have such a different background, but I don’t fit in with the other Chinese students because I don’t have the same language difficulties and I’m studying abroad from an American university instead of a Chinese one. Despite these difficulties, I think an international education is very important in order to have different perspectives.


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