Way to go

Qin 2By Qin Xia

I will graduate this June! I was excited to say so in January. Now, every time when I say, “I will graduate in a couple days,” I tear up. I hated the journey, but now I miss it even while I am still in it.

I remember the first term that began my study life at Portland State University. I was exhausted, and worried a lot about giving up. I use to worry if I had enough money to finish my degree. I remember every night I spent in the library, the tons of coffee I drank, and the papers I wrote.

If you ask me to write down one word that sums up the journey, it would be stress. The stress of getting use to life styles different from my own country, the stress of the academic learning in another language, the stress of the financial side, even the stress of now finding a job. Stresses are always by my side since I chose to study at PSU.

I hated it, but I also love it.

Because of the stress, I kept challenging myself all the time. My English keeps improving, and I absorbed many skills to deal with the different culture. I appreciate the help I received from all my teachers and my friends. With the powerful help and encouragement, I successfully finished my Chinese degree in May, and I will also complete my teaching degree at PSU next Month. For now, I wish time could slow down a bit. I know I will miss the feeling of being a student.

All of this helped me to become a nicer and stronger me.

Graduation is not the end; it is another way to continue.

I need a job!

Qin 2 By Qin Xia

It’s job hunting season, yes, the most difficult season of the year, especially when you choose education as a career and you are an international student.

Schools always hire new teachers in June and July for the next school year. So from May to June, it’s teacher job hunting time. And as an international student, following graduation, there will be one-year for optional practice training (OPT). That means, I can take a temporary job in the U.S. to gain more work experience before going back home to China.

Yes, all graduates will have the same stress of finding a job and maybe choosing between two offers. If you choose the right one, congratulations, you will set a great foundation for your teaching career, but what about the wrong one?

Before the real “deadline,” PSU helped by holding a series of job fairs. The biggest one was the Oregon Professional Educator Fair held in early April. After going to these job fairs, I am still stressed about finding a job, but I feel clearer about how to do it. The later you find a job, the more stress you will have, but that’s ok, because all of us feel the same way.

Don’t give up, because you know you are ready! The most important thing for all of us is not to second guess ourselves and remember to enjoy the joy of graduation!

We need a job, and we can do this!

Assumptions: Broke and Rebuilt

Qin  By Qin Xia

I just had the best Spring Break ever. It was not “fun,” but it was the best.

I joined the Alternative Spring Break, a week-long service opportunity offered by PSU. There were two optional trips: one in Sequoia National Park and the other in San Francisco. I chose the second one, which is the longest-running trip at PSU. We served at Glide Memorial Church and Lava Mae, while we stayed in the heart of San Francisco. I had the chance to think deeply on the “real life” I witnessed in San Francisco as we focused on the urban issues of houselessness and hunger.

During the trip, my biggest challenge was the breaking and rebuilding of my cultural assumptions. For example, before we left, during one of our group meetings, the leader told us that we are not there to “help.” In my culture, helping is the highest morality we value, and I thought it would be the best part of the trip. But they explained, “we are not from a higher level to help the lower level with mercy, that’s not right. We are here because we want to ‘serve’ the people.” They were saying it is a relationship between equals.

It reframed my thinking and offered a different angle of reflection. Sometimes we begin with a good heart, but we forget to check if it’s the right path towards our goal. Sometimes “help” makes people feel further away from each other.

What is the right way to work with the homeless or houseless community? I don’t know, and I am still learning. But I am sure nobody has the totally right answer. But that’s the best part of life: seeking the truth all the time.

Why celebrate?

WechatIMG12  By Qin Xia

February 16 is the start of the traditional New Year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. That means millions of Chinese are celebrating the same thing at the same time. The festival atmosphere lasts for several weeks as we welcome the Year of the Dog.

To be honest, I am not a huge fan of celebrations. I pretend that “I am cool” when others are excited. But I ask myself, why celebrate? It’s just another normal day. I usually don’t participate, but neither do I refuse. I am just an observer, who uses different excuses to escape, but I do enjoy the additional feast.

But not this year.

At PSU, as a diverse university, there were several New Year galas that all students are encouraged to attend. So why celebrate? Because as a part of the community, if you don’t cheer for your own culture, who else will?

I still have a lot of papers to write and lots of passages to read. But I prepared some traditional Chinese red envelopes for my classmates a half month ago. I hosted some celebration parties with my friends, even though I was too exhausted to talk. I posted the red couplet on my door, and I made dumplings with different people the whole week. I also wore all my red clothes, and I said lucky words to all my friends. I did what my parents would be doing in their own time zone.

One might call it an inherited tradition. And the reason why we celebrate? To mark the time and pass it on.

Happy New Year!

 

My voice counts

WechatIMG12 by Qin “Summer” Xia

What’s SHAB?

It’s the abbreviation of Student Health Advisory Board, where students are able to work directly with and advise Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) staff on policies, student issues, budgeting, insurance, and outreach.

Why do I bring this up?

For most international students in a new environment, our priorities to survive include figuring out where to buy food, where to live and, most importantly, where to seek help when we are sick —one of the weakest moments in anyone’s life, right? So, a good health center or clinic is of great concern. As a student do you know what health resources are available to you?

I didn’t.

So, when I saw that SHAB was seeking 2018 members, I applied. The best way to know something is to let yourself in, isn’t it? But before I got in, I worried over the job description: policies, budgeting. These are such huge serious stuff. Will they really consider student advice, even a foreigner’s?

Yes, they do.

After fall term, I spent a great deal of time with SHAC. Every time I had a question, they explained the answer with patience. During the process, I learned that all students at PSU have the right and the duty to let their voice be heard.

One day, I said to a classmate, who is also an international student, “Do you know that every year SHAC pays a large percentage to PSU for management? And those of us on SHAB are concerned and fighting to cut it down a little bit.”

“Really?” My classmate said. “Sounds like you are doing something big!”

“Yes, I am.” I answered.

Scared but not alone

WechatIMG12  By Qin Xia

I don’t know if you have the same feeling as me, but if I am scared of something, I will force myself to face my fear until I am not scared anymore.

When I was a kid, I forced myself to get used to hearing the iron scratching sound outside my window, but it left a lump in my throat. I have checked under the bed three times before going to sleep to make sure no monsters were hiding there. And I stared outside to make sure my place was free of ghosts.

But not this time.

On November 7, it was almost 1 o’clock in the morning when I woke up to two “bang, bang” sounds. I was not sure if the sounds came from my dream or from outside my Park Blocks apartment. But when it was followed by screaming, I knew something was wrong. I was too scared to move. I just lay in my bed. I felt like even a slight movement would cause the attention from the shooter, even though I was in an upstairs apartment. This time, I didn’t force myself to open the curtain, because I was so scared something bad would happen.

The next day, I had to get up and continue my daily life. But I felt safer when I saw the yellow cordon tape. And I felt warmer seeing the memorial candles when I got back home. I felt even better when people around me kept checking with me to see if I was ok.

I know, I will be scared of something now and for the rest of my life. Danger is never very far away, and I will have to deal with it and not always know how. But also, I know fear might be a good thing when it keeps us together.

 

I see, I saw, I am here

WechatIMG12 By Qin Xia

“I love to accept every day’s challenge!” That’s hilarious, because like most people, I don’t like change. I’d love to live in a stable situation with some traveling, but totally not like this.Before I decided to study in the U.S., I barely knew the life here. I am not a research kind of person. I just wanted to go. And when I first came here, I hated it.

My PSU life began Winter term 2107: 20 days of snow covered roads, 30 days without any sunshine, endless rainy days. Strange language, strange faces, even the air. I barely understood the classes. My self confidence crashed. “I want to go back to China,” I whined like a toddler. I was such a nuisance that I even hated myself at times.

Then I saw. I saw a large lady wearing tight jeans walking down the street proudly. I saw a mother with a beard taking care of his/her little girl really well. I saw a girl in a bikini lying on the grass during the first spring sunshine. I saw a man after I refused to give him “a spare dollar” still wish me a nice day. I saw people define their identity by their own thoughts.

I saw lovers show their love without any fear no matter if they are homosexual or heterosexual. I saw a man sitting on a bench crying freely without any embarrassment. Then, I see myself. I am not scared of tight jeans any more. A huge butt might be another kind of sexy.

I will allow myself to cry when I think I need to cry without any concern if it’s a weak thing. I can do whatever I want to do without thinking about what others think of me. I feel safe and free to be who I am here. I still hate change, but for now, I am enjoying it.