Challenges of living abroad can lead to psychological issues
Sandy Zhang became extremely lonely during the second half of her freshman year in college. Her weight slipped from 48 to 35 kilograms within a year, and she lost interest in talking with friends.
“You realize that you are in a foreign country. Your classmates come from a different cultural background, and your friends are on the other side of the planet,” the graduate at Michigan State University in the United States said.
Zhang is a prime example of the many Chinese international students in the United States who have suffered from psychological issues due to the challenges that come with studying abroad.
But she pulled herself up from the depths of despair by meeting new people and talking to family members at home through social media.
However, some others have not been so lucky.
Liu Weiwei, a 20-year-old studying psychology and German at the University of California in Santa Clara, was found dead in her dormitory on Feb 12 last year. Police said her death appeared to be a case of suicide.
Although police did not comment on the cause of Liu’s death, speculation arose that she succumbed to depression.
A note she left on her Sina Weibo account said, “The world is beautiful, but I am a coward who cannot tolerate such a heavy burden, so I choose to escape.”
In October last year, Tang Xiaolin, a promising PhD candidate in space physics at the University of Utah, killed herself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
According to media outlets such as The China Press and US News Express, Tang, 30, was under tremendous academic pressure before her death.
Completion of her academic program and graduation had been delayed, and a friend said she had expressed a desire to kill herself at the Golden Gate Bridge.
From 2012 to last year, US media reported at least 17 cases involving Chinese international students who killed themselves, including Tian Miaoxiu of Cornell University, Rong Xin from the University of Michigan, Li Yangkai of Johns Hopkins University and Liu Yang of the University of California, Los Angeles.
According to the Institute of International Education, China is the leading country for international students studying in the US. There were 1,078,822 such students studying at US universities and colleges in the 2016-17 academic year, and 33 percent of them came from China.
Along with the growth in Chinese studying in the US, concerns have increased about their mental health.
According to a survey on mental health among Chinese international students at Yale University, 45 percent of them had symptoms of depression.
Xuesong Han, director of health policy and healthcare delivery research at the American Cancer Society and an author of the Yale report, said it is difficult to identify Chinese students who have depression.
“They look cheerful and happy, but they feel depressed and unhappy,” Han said.