美国文化 | 那些在美国大学里痛苦挣扎的中国留学生

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那些在美国大学里痛苦挣扎的中国留学生
Chinese, Studying in America, and Struggling

In the fall of 2015, as I began my last year of graduate school, I sensed something was wrong. I woke up in the mornings with a pounding heart. In seminar discussions my sentences came out in faltering fragments, while my classmates’ voices reached me as a cacophony of piercing sounds.
2015年秋天,我开始了在研究生院最后一年的学习,我觉得有些事情感觉不对。早晨醒来时,我的心扑扑直跳。在研讨班的讨论中,我支支吾吾地讲着碎言片语,而我的同学们的声音犹如刺耳的杂音将我淹没。

Until that point, I had enjoyed my time on the Harvard campus, whose maple-shaded Georgian buildings I had first seen in pictures my father took 20 years earlier on his first trip from China to America. On the back of one of the photos, he had inscribed in blue ink, “You will see it with your own eyes someday.”
在那之前,我十分享受在哈佛校园度过的时光,那些枫红色乔治亚风格建筑,我是在父亲20年前首次从中国到美国旅游时拍的照片里第一次看到的。其中一张照片的背面,他用蓝墨水写着,“有一天你会亲眼看到它。”

But in those days, instead of taking in its beauty, my eyes were fixed on the ground as I slogged from one academic building to the next, counting pavement stones to help tame my racing thoughts.
但在那段时间,我没有欣赏哈佛的美景,在我埋头从一栋教学楼走向另一栋时,我的眼睛直盯着地面,心里数着铺路的石头,以控制我内心躁动不安的思绪。

The anxiety attacks took me by surprise. I had spent eight years studying and working in the United States away from my home in Beijing. Over time, the isolation of graduate school, the heavy reading load in a second language and the strain that distance put on relationships with people in Beijing all began to add up.
焦虑的发作让我很意外,我当时已经离开自己在北京的家,来美国求学和工作八年了。随着时间的推移,在研究生院感受到的孤立,用第二语言阅读的沉重负荷,以及和远在北京的人因距离而产生的关系紧张,都开始加在一起。

本文作者:高雨莘

Trying to make sense of what happened, I recalled incidents among fellow Chinese international students that at the time had seemed like only minor slumps in coping with the demands of student life: missed classes, complaints of insomnia, months of sudden absence from group events, lengthy Facebook posts strung with sullen adjectives.
为了理解发生在我身上的一切,我回忆了其他中国留学生经历的事,它们在当时看起来不过是应对学业的小挫折而已:缺课,抱怨失眠,突然缺席集体活动几个月,用忧郁的形容词写成的冗长Facebook帖子。

There were 544,500 Chinese studying abroad in 2016, and a more recent report said 329,000 are studying in the United States alone. For those students, the opportunity is the culmination of uncounted after-school hours devoted to American standardized test prep lessons, and it means liberation from the merciless Chinese education system.
2016年,有54.45万中国人在国外留学,最近的一份报告称,仅在美国就有32.9万。对这些学生来说,这个机会是建立在数不清的课后美国标准化考试准备课程上的,它意味着从无情的中国教育体系中解脱出来。

Yet those triumphs come with hidden perils. A survey released in 2013 by Yale researchers found that 45 percent of Chinese international students on campus reported symptoms of depression, and 29 percent reported symptoms of anxiety. The rates are startling, compared with the roughly 13 percent for depression and anxiety among the general population in American universities. Those findings are corroborated by reports from other American campuses, as well as from some schools in Australia and Britain with large Chinese student populations.
不过,这些胜利也伴随着隐藏的危险。耶鲁大学(Yale)的研究人员2013年发布的一项调查发现,45%的中国留学生报告称自己有抑郁症状,29%的人表示自己有焦虑症状。这个比率令人惊讶,因为美国大学生的整体抑郁症和焦虑症比例约为13%。其他美国大学的报告也证实了这些发现,拥有大量中国留学生的澳大利亚和英国的一些学校也有类似的报告。

The Chinese students acknowledge the usual challenges of living abroad — like the language barrier and cultural differences — but cite academic pressure as the most likely cause of stress. Despite all they have heard about a liberal arts education, they are often surprised by the rigor needed to succeed. The results-oriented mind-set with which many Chinese tackle their studies doesn’t fit well in a system that emphasizes the analytical process and critical thinking.
中国留学生承认自己承受着在国外生活常见的那些挑战,比如语言障碍和文化差异,但他们认为,学业压力是最大的压力来源。尽管他们都听说过博雅教育,但他们常常对它的严苛要求感到意外。很多中国人在学业中以结果为导向,这种思维模式并不适合强调分析过程和审辩式思维的教育体系。

As a result, the determination and perseverance that have made Chinese students winners at home can deepen their sense of frustration abroad, when a paper outline does not easily emerge from heaps of painstakingly compiled notecards, or when a history exam asks questions about hypothetical scenarios rather than the chronology they have committed to heart.
因此,中国学生在国内成功所凭借的决心和毅力,可能更会加深他们在国外的挫败感,因为一堆精心整理的笔记卡片并不能轻松促成一篇论文大纲,或者,历史考试所问的问题是关于假设的情景,而非他们努力记住的历史事件。

The feeling is not eased by a frequently cited difficulty in building productive relationships with academic advisers. In a study that interviewed 19 Chinese graduate students at a university in the American Southwest about their sources of stress, many described having trouble establishing trust with their advisers. Some feared that the language barrier might lead advisers to doubt their intelligence. Others confessed to being kept awake at night thinking about communication blunders such as a bungled conversation or a misphrased email to an adviser.
另一个常见的问题在于,他们很难与学术导师建立富有成效的关系,这更加深了他们的挫败感。美国西南部的一所大学在一项研究中,询问19名中国研究生的压力来源,很多人表示自己很难取得导师的信任。有些人担心,语言障碍可能会令导师怀疑他们的智力。还有些人承认自己晚上睡不着觉,老是想着沟通中的失误,比如一次不愉快的谈话,或给导师发了一封措辞不当的邮件。

Those challenges may seem common enough; many, indeed, are not unfamiliar to American students. But for the Chinese students, who grew up imbibing messages that all but equated their life prospects and self-worth with academic achievements, the setbacks can be profoundly unnerving. The bright promise of intellectual freedom often ends up producing an insecurity so consuming that it leaves them unable to consider failing.
这些挑战似乎非常普遍,事实上,很多美国学生对它们也不陌生。但对中国学生来说,这些挫折可能会让他们深感不安,因为他们从小到大一直接受的观念将人生前景和自我价值与学业成绩几乎划上了等号。学术自由的光明前景,往往最终制造出强烈的不安感,让他们不敢考虑失败的可能性。

The price of failure is more than imaginary for a majority of those students. Chinese international students overwhelmingly pay full tuition. An annual cost of, say, $50,000 to $60,000 is about 10 times the average urban disposable income in China and often requires working-class families to empty bank accounts or sell properties. Although parents have not hesitated to make those sacrifices when it comes to the future of their treasured only child, to the conscientious American-college freshman from Shenzhen or Changsha struggling to keep up with academic requirements, that weight can feel like an avalanche bearing down.
对大部分中国留学生来说,失败的代价是不可想像的。中国留学生绝大多数是全额支付学费。一年的开销在五万至六万美元之间,大约是中国城镇平均可支配收入的十倍,工薪家庭往往需要花光全部积蓄或出售房产才够送孩子出国留学。为自己珍爱的独生子女的未来做出这些牺牲,父母不会有半点犹豫,然而对于美国大学里那些来自深圳或长沙的勤奋新生来说,他们在努力跟上学业要求的同时,会觉得经济上的压力像雪崩一样沉重。

A Chinese student in Chicago (using a pseudonym) voiced a popular sentiment when she told The Paper, a popular Chinese online news outlet, of her constant wondering whether her school performance justified the money her working-class parents spent on her education. It made her more anxious than she had been during the “gaokao,” the notoriously cutthroat national college entrance exam.
芝加哥的一名(使用化名的)中国留学生在接受中国热门的新闻网站《澎湃》采访时表达了一种普遍的情绪,她一直在想,她的学业成绩是否配得上她的工薪阶层父母在她的教育上花的钱。这让她比“高考”时更焦虑——高考是以竞争激烈著称的全国大学入学考试。

People like that student are unlikely to find consolation in recent statistics: according to a September report from the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, and Zhilian Zhaopin, a Chinese recruitment agency, 80.5 percent of Chinese overseas returnees make less than $1,500 a month, with their average pay only marginally higher than that of graduates of mainland colleges.
最近的统计数据也不大可能让这些学生感到安慰:据北京的中国与全球化智库和中国招聘网站智联招聘9月份联合发布的报告称,80.5%的海归月工资低于1500美元,他们的平均工资仅仅略高于中国大陆的大学毕业生。

These shared difficulties have led Chinese students to turn to one another in moments of distress. The stigma in Chinese culture associated with mental illnesses is just beginning to lift, as several Chinese celebrities have opened up about their personal battles. But because of the heavy shortage of well-trained therapists in China, therapy remains a hazy concept even for the most worldly students. The Yale s

urvey found that despite the alarming rate of mental illness, 27 percent of Chinese students on campus had never heard of the university’s mental health counseling service, and only 4 percent had ever used it.
共同的难题让中国留学生在沮丧之时向彼此求助。中国文化赋予精神疾病的污名刚刚开始消散,几位中国名人袒露了自己与精神疾病作斗争的经历。但由于中国严重缺乏训练有素的治疗师,甚至对那些最见过世面的学生来说,精神治疗依然是一个模糊的概念。耶鲁大学的调查发现,尽管中国留学生出现精神疾病症状的比例高得惊人,但他们中27%的人从未听说过学校的心理健康咨询服务,只有4%的人用过这项服务。

Some of those who have tried the services are often left underwhelmed. In addition to the long wait and limited session time that are common to the increasingly crowded university mental health counseling centers, there are thornier problems. How can Chinese students convey the texture of their thoughts and moods in a foreign language when the language barrier is a cause of their stress and inhibition in the first place? How do they communicate their nostalgia for mouthwatering homemade Chinese dishes when the sympathetic therapist may not have ventured beyond Panda Express?
一些尝试过这项服务的学生往往也不以为然。除了漫长的等待和有限的咨询时间——这些都是日益拥挤的大学心理健康咨询中心的常见问题——还有一些更棘手的问题。语言障碍正是中国学生压力和抑郁的根源,所以他们怎么能用外语表达自己思想和情绪的本质呢?共情治疗师可能从未品尝过熊猫快餐(Panda Express)之外的中餐,所以中国留学生怎么能说清楚自己对家里的美味饭菜的怀念之情呢?

A few institutions, such as Purdue University and Ohio State University, have set up counseling services tailored to Chinese students. More schools need to follow suit. Hiring Chinese-speaking mental health counselors may be the ideal solution, although qualified candidates can be hard to find.
普渡大学(Purdue University)和俄亥俄州立大学(Ohio State University)等院校为中国学生设立了专门的咨询服务。更多的学校需要效仿。聘请讲中文的心理健康顾问可能是最理想的解决方案,不过符合这个要求的人可能不多。

Informal counselor-led support groups and outreach programs, which have received positive feedback from Asian-American students, could be extended to Chinese international students. Universities could hire and train well-acclimated Chinese students to become counselors for their communities.
由咨询顾问领导的非正式的支持小组和外展项目——这些项目得到了亚裔学生的正面反馈——可以扩展到中国留学生中间。大学可以雇佣和培训那些适应良好的中国学生,让他们担任社区顾问。

Chinese students are the largest international student group on most American campuses, and their tuition is a major source of much-needed revenue. College administrators should work harder to meet their mental health needs — at least as hard as the students worked to gain admission.
中国学生在多数美国校园里是规模最大的国际学生团体,他们的学费是大学急需的收入主要来源。大学管理者应该更加努力地满足他们的心理健康需求——至少得像学生们争取获得录取那样努力。

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