I finally accomplished something that I have wanted to do for a long time. I’m very proud to present you the finished work.
This is a multimedia project that I worked on for the past three months. My topic is Chinese students at UW-Madison.
I did not hesitate when choosing the topic. Why? Because I am one of them. This is my fifth year in the United States, second year at UW-Madison, but I have never doubted my identity as Chinese.
Madison is a college town with more than 40,000 students, and the Chinese students counts about five percent of the total population. Soon, integration problem stands out. It seems American students think Chinese students are anti-social and Chinese students don’t think Americans want to make friends with them.
This seeming phenomenon is what started the project.
Two years ago, I did a similar project as my senior project before finishing high school. I focused on Chinese high school students who came to America at a young age.
Now when I think back, that was almost a practice trial or mini version of what I created during the past months. From the first interview to creating logo for the website (Chinese flag inside Wisconsin map, if you haven’t noticed that :)), it has been a long but fun journey.
I conducted a survey to ask some Chinese students why they come to America to study and whether they think integration is a problem for them. I also talked to many Chinese students on campus to hear their personal stories. Besides, I interviewed American students and faculty member for their opinions.
I enjoyed my time talking to people from various background. I learned much about multimedia work through doing it myself. It’s not just about writing a story, but also using other tools to support it. I came to know what alternative story forms are and utilized infographic and timeline to tell a bigger story. I was able to design a magazine layout and my own website. I also learned transcribing an hour-long interview is a lot of work.
Besides preparing specific questions and shortening the interview time, I realized that there is much more can be improved. First of all, the survey was only sent to a quarter of the entire Chinese student population on campus; some of the questions were still directional even though I tried not to include preconceived notions.
For the interviewees, I wish I could have interviewed more American students and see their real perception of Chinese students on campus and whether they are interested in knowing different cultures. However, I realize that my identity places a barrier in the fist place: people might not be honest in order to not offend me.
As the project goes on, I gradually realize that maybe integration is not a problem, or at least not particular to Chinese students.
American students tend to stay with their high school friends, too. Maybe the difference in appearance does set us apart, or more obvious to be pin-pointed as “models” of being “anti-social”.
What struck me the most is not the survey result, or what I heard from the Chinese students, but from an Indian student. She said “just imagine that, when you can see any American as an eccentric Chinese person, and see any black or brown people as eccentric Chinese,” that’s when culture differences don’t matter any more.
In my own opinion, I think the international students have made some good effort by coming half way around the world to meet new people, maybe it is time for American students to take the step forward and start the conversation.
Lastly, I want to say a sincere thank you to all the interviewees and my friends who helped to find possible interviewees, my TA who guided me through this thorny path and bore my complaints and my professor who gave us this opportunity to prove what we can do! I hope you will enjoy the stories as much as I do.