What I would share with the students about studying abroad

Trade war, COVID-19, and all other stuff that I met expectedly or unexpectedly during my journey as a foreign student

The moment when I clicked to submit my answer to the “final” final exam, my life at Boston University unofficially came to the end (because our diploma certifies officially that I complete this program one month later :0). So did my career as a student. Generally speaking, this is a bittersweet experience for me as a foreign student in the United States where so many issues went out of my control while I gained a plethora of pleasure as well. In this story, I am just going to share something that I learned, or at least have experienced on this land.

Don’t try too hard.

I had never cared so much about money before I went to America. I still remember the discussion about the monthly budget with my pals in my first semester as a college student. And my argument kept being like: “ why is there a budget?”

Yes, I had no worries about the expense at that time due to the fact that I had that kind of parents who always worried that I had a financial shortage. So I easily bought whatever I thought my exes would want to please them or had a shopping weekend on a monthly basis when the only theme was cutting off my deposit. Part-time jobs? Never, not even my options.

But you know what, the first thing that I came up with when I settled down is to get myself a job that I could make my living. Everything became super expensive, if still affordable, to me, which made me always calculate the price in RMB by multiplying the price with the currency exchange rate before the payment, considering more than enough whether I should buy it without regard to my parents’ endeavor. So it quite made sense that a prudent person like me thrives to make money on his own.

Then I immediately got hired by one of the dining halls on campus, so as to earn the right to invest in stocks and secures approved by Social Security Administration. Nonetheless, something terrifying also came along: I cut myself accidentally just in my third shift as a student servant in the dining hall, which kept me out of the job for the following two weeks and almost away from academics because my finger hurt when I typed or wrote.

Investment? Sure, I still did, but I did it by canceling my subscription to Netflix after the 1-month free trial that blocked me out of most communication with fellows.

I eventually managed to turn things around, simply by remembering who I am, and who I should be.

So what did I get eventually? Was it worthy? These were the questions that I kept asking myself. In order to make money, I got injured and consequently lost money while losing my time to enjoy myself in America. At least, I came to realize the importance to live a life at a time and do what a student is supposed to do when I am a student. So I started to catch up with others in the second half of the semester, got connected to the friends who are still my besties in America, and let enjoyable moments decorate my life. I also taught myself to think less about money, refreshed my understanding of wealth: no millionaires make their fortunes by saving money, but hard work and knowledge are surely able to make a man wealthy.

This is something that I should have understood, I just forgot it when I focused on something not-so-important. Luckily, I eventually managed to turn things around, simply by remembering who I am, and who I should be.

Be tough.

How is it possible to tough whereas not forcing myself too hard? Let me explain: a person does not have to force himself/herself to be outstanding in everything, but he/she should be responsible for the pursuit, even though it is a tough task.

I grew up in a family whose members always tell me that I don’t need to get myself exhausted for some sort of achievement or success. I almost bought it until I realized I am capable of making my dream come true with my own hands: I have been loving sports and the interest in sports analytics triggers me to be a data science student. So I was determined that America, with the prosper of the sports industry, would definitely be the start point of my career when I left for it. I was so glad that throughout my study, I really got in touch with a lot of technologies and knowledge that I was interested in, and would be helpful for me to land jobs in the sports industry, even though I needed to tackle tons of obstacles along the way.

The sadness is that even though I have been trying whatever I could, I still didn’t succeed in landing a job yet. But I have trust in myself, I am convinced that I would find a job in the rest of my time in America. Please follow me and I will definitely let you know then when I succeed.

Life is tough, and so am I. And tough moments don't last while tough people do.

Be extroverted.

Take note: I am telling you to be extroverted instead of extrovert since there is a saying that “every extrovert is an extroverted introvert”.

People around me always complained about why I was always so quiet before. That’s true, I wasn't a talkative person and neither am I. The difference is, I know when is my time to speak up. Maybe I am not that skillful at breaking the ice yet, but that’s enough to get myself noticed in some social networking events.

Why would I change? I concluded two reasons: COVID-19 and self-satisfaction. Coronavirus does suck, but if you are looking for anything positive of it, here is one: it incredibly made an introvert to sense the need of getting connected. Without exaggeration, I would say I have never felt real loneliness till my fourth month of quarantine when my second semester was over and my roommate moved out. This is the first time that I had an impulse to talk, which led me to ask for virtual alternatives to traditional socials.

I discovered so many APPs that made face-to-face without going outdoors possible. I tried some of them, for one of the reasons to get my job searching done, and for another, just to hang out online. This is an unprecedented time for me when all residents in this world seem to be neighbors: I talked to my colleague in Illinois in the morning for the follow-up schedule, had a meeting with the international teammates in the afternoon, with whom I teamed up for a Kaggle Competition and won a silver medal together, and chatted with my parents at home in the evening.

Even I myself was able to feel that I have become more and more extroverted after meeting and meeting. I was no longer a yes-man in the meeting, nor a lonely dude in the party with nobody to talk with. Sometimes I am suspicious that it is because I am speaking my second language English that it gives me the confidence to speak out something I would rather not speak in my languages. But who cares? I now have lived up to many people’s expectations. Perhaps it’s time to eye on my TEDtalk debut.

Think critically.

I admit that I am pretty sensitive to politics and following the US-China tension, US election, and any other stuff since the outbreaking of the trade war. I felt supreme to my peers because I was the one who can think out of the box, until the unveiling of the projected results launched on November 7th. The result went shockingly different from what I expected, not because I was a supporter of Mr. Donald Trump, rather, because I felt some pieces of my thoughts were taken away when I was analyzing the election.

Can you also give some space for readers to think by themselves, media?

We are living in a world where media penetrates every aspect. The reason why I thought I was able to think out of the box is I got so involved with the information globally. But the thing is, I got in touch via media which could easily filter, censor, and even distort the truth or fact. So I was just aware that what I used to believe was my ideas were actually some junk news digested on my own. It is time to get rid of media, boy!

Well, though I kind of hate the media, we still need them, need them to fight for unfairness, injustice, and brutality. But can you also give some space for readers to think by themselves, media?

See, now I criticize the media critically. Isn’t it another harvest?

Be yourself.

Okay, finally, you made it to the last-but-not-least section! To be honest, I believe you are always you, but it somewhat takes you time and effort to be what you wanna be. This applied to me under lots of scenarios, including job searching, course selection, and internship decision. I got riddled sometimes too, as I mentioned above that I kept my eyes only on the material income regardless of the overall losses. But it is the confuses that clear lots of my future ones: My value of wealth is refreshed, so that I will become neither jealous nor humble; I once forgot the aim to leave for America, so I constantly reminded myself that; people were annoyed by my introvert personality, so I extroverted myself and found being out-going is not that hard at all.

Anyway, it is still just my experience in America. I don’t expect my sharing can help much (it’s perfect if it really does though!). It is totally up to you to have your own picture of the study-abroad life.

Just be yourself.

Grad student @ Boston University, aspiring data scientist and sports analyst. Buy me a coffee now(https://www.buymeacoffee.com/MemphisMeng)!