Cat in a Zoo of Tigers

People never realize1.pic how tough a situation really is until they experience it themselves. To be honest, my trip to America has shocked me more than I had expected. To my classmates in Oral Presentation, the differences I mentioned days earlier were mere jests; I assume you wouldn’t have taken them seriously anyway.

I remember a couple of weeks ago when I attended the CIP graduation program, a classmate of mine cried because of the discrepancy she felt between her expected life at BU and reality. The discrepancy does not lie in cultural aspects––as much as you would think that is––it actually has something to do with our mentalities.

I don’t know about international students from other countries, but for us, whoever made it this far has a 90% chance that he/she rarely, if ever, encountered major frustrations or, to be a little more specific, failures of any kind. Two things here, (1)we have great GPA and experiences in our major-related fields, otherwise BU wouldn’t have admitted us in the first place. Which means almost all of us were academically successful back in China. (2)Our families are able to pay for the enormous amount of tuition. I guess that is self-explanatory––we lived well-off. So it’s hard to imagine what failures we could possibly have had when everything mattered in Chinese society, we have already gotten them.

Back to my weeping classmate situation. I guess consciously or unconsciously, we tend to believe that everything has to go well, it is just the way that everything had been in the past. So we automatically assume everything from now on is supposed to follow that pattern. If our lives were a video game, we had been playing easy or intermediate mode before BU, and now we are playing hell hard mode. To my best knowledge, none of us had envisaged the life here accurately before coming. All we had were fragments of a full picture. In fact, we were so infatuated with the “ultimate” goal of coming here that we forgot what it actually means to be here when we really are. The instance she cried, I started to compare us with cats.

The toughest cat in the neighborhood is watching a TV program featuring a world of tigers. These big cats look almost the same from TV with this bad-ass neighbor cat, from a certain angle, they even look cute. But when this bad-ass cat takes a trip to the zoo, it can’t even perform a decent high-five with the tiger, to be fair, every high-five consists of the possibility of a tragic fatality––cat pulp.

We need to get used to the fact that the game has changed–deal with not being the best anymore, because as of the moment we landed, we have started from square one. You know what, square minus one to be more precise.


  1. I’m sorry to hear that BU has been such a tough adjustment for my Chinese classmates. 😦
    Actually, though my upbringing was kind of rough and my family was poor, I was also used to excelling in school. The first time I took a class that wasn’t easy for me (Advanced Placement Chemistry), I cried too!


    1. Sorry to hear about that chemistry class. I’d really want to study physics or chemistry if I were better at math:( I was talking to a friend the other day and she said never having failures is actually detrimental rather than beneficial for one’s upbringing. So everything tough has been a lesson to us.


      1. I think that’s definitely true. I’ve had students who have never failed in their life, and they react very badly to any criticism or setback. They really don’t know how to deal with it when things don’t go their way! So I guess I’m glad I failed, hahaha


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