Days of Swatties: Living as an International Student (Sicheng Zhong ’21)

Days of Swatties: this is a project that goes into the hearts of the Swarthmore students by listening about their lives. Wholesome, sad, and all other kinds of stories are carried by Swatties. I choose to present as little personal information as possible because I think the specific backgrounds of students are irrelevant to this series: it is a place for individual people who make up the narrative of Swarthmore as a whole. It will be an archive, but also a window into Swarthmore today.

 

How do you feel about your home country, especially as a student who is studying abroad in the States?

Home (China) feels suffocating to me: no political freedom, no human rights, no access to Facebook and Google. The political and human rights situation is getting even worse and worse in the age of Xi. More student activists and human rights lawyers are getting arrested and tortured, and thousands of ethnic minorities are forced into camps. Many of my peers are educated to be nationalistic, apolitical, and inward- looking, and they are expected to choose a major that would not necessarily interest them but would pay well. I want to change what’s happening back home so badly,

 

 

but at the same time, I also feel the urge to escape from that kind of authoritarian and repressive environment. Studying in the States became a natural choice for me when I graduated from middle school, as it would give me the academic freedom, abundant resources, and a diverse cultural environment I desired. I’m also well aware of the fact that studying abroad is such a privilege: having a family that has the vision and economic resources to send me to the other side of the planet is not something most of my peers back home could enjoy.

 

To realize one’s privilege and understand how to use it wisely is important. It made me more passionate about the rights of those who are often oppressed yet voiceless in China: those feminist activists who are starting the #metoo movement in China, those student labor activists who are fighting for the rights of workers but are secretly arrested and legally detained by the government, and Muslim ethnic minorities who are being put into camps. I think we overseas Chinese students need to care more and fight for our rights wisely.

 

 

 

Studying in Trump’s America also feels a bit weird and disheartening; the America that I admired, the America that would stand for the good no longer existed. What I’m instead seeing is the breaking apart of a liberal democracy and those values we used to believe in —- diversity, good governance, globalization, internationalism, free trade, rational arguments and debates, rights of immigrants. As an immigrant-to-be, while I enjoy the liberal and diverse bubble I live in, I’m also very worried about the direction of this country.”

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