We posted a video earlier this week from Michigan State University, in which Chinese and American students talk very candidly about the problems they’ve face in forming relationships on campus. The students in the video address the controversial question of who’s to blame if Chinese and American students don’t mingle much on campus, and their responses generated a lot of discussion in our comments.
Commenter Paul Robinson suggested that if cross-cultural friendships are lacking, it might have nothing to do with Chinese v. American students at all:
I don’t know about Chinese culture, but American students often don’t mix well among themselves. People usually hang out with the friends they know. So why would it be surprising if a particular American does not go far out of her way to befriend Chinese students? She is not going far out of her way to befriend anybody.
One of our bloggers was struck by the comment by an American in the video that the problem is “more so the flaw in the Chinese students.” Commenter Sean Oliver suggests one explanation for why the American students may feel that way.
…the American student w/the close-cropped hair, talking about how differences aren’t important… though somehow he’s not managed to navigate those “insignificant” differences to form relationships with Chinese students. Very common for Americans to downplay differences, as they value treating everyone the same (even if they’re not the same).
Meanwhile, Hsing Kuo reflected on his own experience studying in America many years ago, saying he was surprised by how little has changed:
I was a foreign student 30 years ago from Taiwan. I am a little surprised watching such impression has been not so much improved
In school, I was told that I should be more outspoken so that Americans could know how to help, meaning to train, because I came here to learn … Chinese students are here looking for improvements, not to be changed. American students can help if recognizing different culture is fun. It seems cutting down expectation can avoid frustration. Having a bonded friendship with different culture background should be taken as an advanced goal.
But does this conversation even reflect the reality of the experience for every Chinese student and every American student? A professor at Michigan State University contacted us to share a series of videos produced by her journalism students, which profile a number of Chinese students at MSU and reflect the sheer variety of experiences these students have had.
Add your voice to the debate. Do you think American and Chinese students can get along? What should be done to improve cross-cultural relations? Are the problems between American and Chinese students deeper than those between American and other international students? Leave a comment and let us know.
And stay tuned for an article by our blogger Qian, who is reflecting on her own experiences at Syracuse University and how the campus climate has changed as the university enrolls more Chinese students (UPDATE: This is now posted)