The Student Experience

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China Cross Cultural Communication Club

Students from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong have flourished at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University. They experienced challenges of language, culture and distance from family, but found ways to gather for support and celebrate their heritage.  

While there is little formal documentation of the experience of Chinese students, their presence is evident in yearbook photos, event promotions, and campus publications.   From 1972 to 1979, CSB/SJU Chinese students joined their international classmates  to publish a newsletter called The Paper.  Personal testimonials in The Paper give insight into stereotypes and bias encountered by Chinese students, as well as positive learning experiences. The Paper is not published online but issues can be consulted at either the CSB or the SJU Archives.

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Masthead for International Student's Newspaper (1972)

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Masthead for International Students Newspaper (1979)

The Johnnie/Bennie Experience and China

By: Alex Flint '23

Context is key when attempting to discern the challenges faced by international Chinese students who arrive at CSB+SJU for academics. A 2022 interview conducted with Multicultural Student Service (MCSS) representative Qiwei Zhang helped shed light on what many students felt impacted their experience. The most notable and confounding variable over the past 3 years has been the COVID-19 pandemic and the US Chinese relationships that resulted from this pandemic. As Zhang stated, “The pandemic created a sense of isolation,” where students felt that they did not belong. This was further perpetuated by the fact that Asian hate crimes and discrimination were on the rise due to the fears of the origins of the virus. Zhang also added that international students from China felt exhausted from having to constantly be on high alert for fear for their own safety or the safety of their fellow international students. Adding to their stress was the unknown of if or when it was safe to return to China. For a period, the Chinese government had shut down international travel from the US to slow the spread of the virus, but in doing this, left the students studying at CSB+SJU feeling stranded.

Although it sounds as if the Chinese students' situation would contribute to negative academic performance and engagement, it turned out that this was the opposite of what happened. Zhang noted that Chinese students still felt a very deep-rooted sense of internal drive to perform well in school. This would allow them to take their skills back to China and find a successful career, wherever they saw fit.

Without this much needed context of COVID-19 Chinese students were living what appeared to be a very normal student life as a Bennie/Johnnie. They were preforming well in classes and putting on a happy face. However, when given a voice to share their story, these students stated that they were feeling an overwhelming sense of being alone. Mental health challenges and social challenges were on the rise and students today are still feeling the ramifications of the world changing pandemic. In addition to the indirect impacts of COVID-19 there were also very real consequences to trying to balance safety and autonomy. From being locked out to returning home, to having real personal safety concerns, the Chinese students proved resilient and are still finding success at CSB+SJU today.

The Student Experience