Mary Su '22
Being an International Student in the COVID Era
I am currently a junior born and raised in Beijing, China. I have studied in the United States since eighth grade, and one identity that has always accompanied me is that I am an "international student." Throughout these years in the U.S., I have grown from a 13 year old to a young woman, made friends around the globe, and tried to grasp my identity, balancing my cultural heritage and my newly formed perspectives in the United States. But this is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times for me to be an international student here.
On the one hand, there are the influences of the pandemic. While the endless quarantining and social distancing take a toll on my usual positivity, the increased racism against Asians hurts me even more. There was a period of time when I would stop looking at the news, because when I watched it I would see that Trump called COVID-19 "the China virus," or that violence targeting Asians were on the rise around the globe. Even harder is the separation from my family as a result of the international travel ban and the sharply reduced flights between the US and China. The mid-autumn festival, a Chinese festival for family reunions, is approaching, but I haven't been able to give my mom a hug since last Christmas.
On the other hand, there is more and more tension in US-China relations and a tighter immigration policy in the United States. During the summer ICE announced it would ban international students from entering the U.S. if they were only taking online classes, even though it was impossible to know if we would be able to take in-person classes at BC. Around two weeks ago, Trump threatened to ban WeChat, which is the only social media platform I can use to reach my family living under the strict Chinese censorship. And just this past week, the U.S. has cancelled visas from around 1,000 Chinese students over concerns about intellectual property. My friend Shirley once said jokingly to me that living in the U.S. right now is like going into a haunted house: you never know what’s going to pop up in front of you, and how scary it is going to be.
As I try to resume my “normal” college experience clouded by anger, homesickness, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, I have learned to spot and cherish what I have more and more. I started to practice Guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument, during the quarantine period, and I collaborated with a guitar player to record a Chinese song. I have built unforgettable memories with my friends who were stranded like me, trying to experiment with all kinds of international cuisine (some of these attempts have turned horribly wrong). And with the start of school, I have been able to study in an actual classroom setting with passionate professors and welcoming classmates, from whom I see acceptance rather than discrimnation. These experiences, though seem trivial, have meant so much to me during the past few months.
I have always been inspired by a saying: "What hurts you, write it on sand and let wind blow it away, What helps you, carve it in stone and keep it in your memory." I’m sure that looking back at this time years or even decades later, I will think of the difficulties and challenges put in front of me, but I will remember and value these moments of joy and happiness that supported me through this difficult time.
Mary Su '22