Misconceptions of the US university dream

By Josh Zhou Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/18 20:33:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


December is marked as the most important month for high school seniors. It is the time to wrap up applications to their dream universities, many of which are overseas. But December 2017 was an awful month for Chinese applicants to American universities. The ongoing investigation of admission discrimination against Asian American applicants at Princeton and another lawsuit filed by the Department of Education against Harvard for the same reason fuel the fear that US universities are singling out Asians domestically and internationally.

As a Chinese international student who currently studies in the US, I was once one of those applicants who aspired to secure a spot at my dream school. I too used to believe in the meritocracy, human rights, and individualism that American society purports to represent.

My experience of studying abroad proves that my old idealistic beliefs were wrong. I feel sorry for those Chinese applicants that just experienced their first lesson in American racism.

The US does not value individualism as much as one might think. When we watch Hollywood movies in China, we see the US as a place where distinctive individual characteristics are praised. The truth is: American society categorizes socioeconomic and racial groups collectively based on superficial stereotypes. It is indeed stereotyping that is rooted in the real America.

Take us as an example. We, as Chinese, are stereotyped as "nerdy," "good at math," and "lacking of social competence." In our home country of China, not everyone fits within the stereotyped image Americans impose on us. We can be humorous, talkative and good at humanity. However, once you are in the US, you have to face the unwilling burden of being stereotyped by society at large.

How about equal opportunity? Has American society entirely abandoned the ideal that everyone is created equal? The answer is "No." In the US, equal opportunity is a sneaky notion. It serves different meanings in different circumstances. Certain groups of people might be afforded more opportunities than other groups.

If you've heard of affirmative action, you will know that minority groups, such as African Americans and Latinos, might have the edge either in college admission or in employment over other groups due to policy reparations for past historical wrongs done against them.

Therefore, it is not surprising to see an Asian student with a perfect standardized testing score and excellent leadership positions still be rejected by most selective colleges. The rationale behind this disturbing phenomenon is just that certain groups are more "equal" than other groups.

When it comes to human rights, you will be disappointed again. Look carefully at what happened in the past year. Since Donald Trump was elected as the president of the US, America has become more divided than ever. Discrimination is pervasive in America. Americans no longer respect each other's race, beliefs, religions and individual propensities. They have started hating each other just because of differing political party affiliation. If you are in the subway station, don't be surprised if someone calls you "chinos." That's the disrespect I have had before, and you will have to face it too once you are in America.

I hope this lesson will be a valuable one, readying you for the gap between your expectations of America and reality in this country.

The author is a student at the School of General Studies, Columbia University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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