I don’t expect The South China Morning Post — or any other non-American paper, for that matter — to replace The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal as a staple paper for most Cornellians. As a supplement, though, this could complement American coverage of China while still remaining fairly critical.
A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to a series of four MBTI-style questions meant to analyze personality traits and preferences. They ask about our choices regarding the following: Favorite color, favorite animal, favorite body of water and reaction to being placed in a doorless, windowless room. This last one came up in a recent conversation with renewed meaning in this time of Coronavirus. Identical as our circumstances of self-isolation might seem, everybody’s experience has differed vastly – in ways that location, socioeconomic status or other concrete factors don’t seem to fully capture. As an international student studying abroad, there was a point where I felt like I had more doors, windows of opportunities than I knew how to responsibly choose between.
“Deadline for new checklist items for Spring Programs: November 1st”
Receiving automated study abroad notifications long after they were meant to be read was somewhat funny. Beyond being an administrative inconvenience to various parties (sorry!), having a more long-drawn application process has also meant interrogating — far more extensively than productive — reasons to stay or to go. No matter the cause, a trend among many who leave for a semester abroad is to do so during junior spring, not infrequently for reasons beyond the permissiveness of academic structures or the attractiveness of programs elsewhere. I’ve heard peers speak of the need to retrieve a sense of perspective narrowed by being in the whirling stress-pool isolated in “Shithaca” (not my title, this place is … alright). Grateful as I am to come from the other side of the world in search of perspective, I wonder what it means to be at a point where I so resonate with this sentiment that I feel “reality” could be better grasped by returning.
A well-meaning friend recently responded to my apology with an invitation to try going on antidepressants. After I politely declined, he insisted that it worked wonders for him and suggested I really think about it again. And so I have, and I stand by my initial position. I am accountable for my own mental wellness. Me not opting for professional help means I do not want to outsource the work I know I have cut out for me; it is not my refusal to admit a problem.
The most alarming thing I’ve heard since coming to America is, “Since when were you so anti-China?” This came from my brother, who can tell me the angles six different international news agencies take on various issues, while I — reliant on my free student subscription of The New York Times — could reference only one. I decided that my brother’s balance on issues is something I need to learn from, as shown when he responded on what he thought a friend’s stance on Hong Kong was with: “Pro-stability.”
The tendency of American college activism to personify governments and populations into single entities with moral character is something I’ve since tried to distance myself from. In particular, the way this habit voids “the enemy’s” perspective. When I juxtapose this tendency with our campus climate’s simultaneous desire to give her diverse student body equal cultural voice, I am puzzled by the contradiction and cognizant of the way it politicizes aspects of culture that I grew up believing are better unpoliticized. Yet, reflecting on recent Rosh Hashanah and Mid-Autumn Festival festivities, I realize I too am homogenizing cultural expression when I carry this belief.