24 / 03 / 04

I Experienced Discrimination from the Faculty at the School of Education at William & Mary.

After a short exchange of niceties, the elderly man told me insincerely:

“We’ve decided to delay your training.”


“Because your skills aren’t up to par.”

I was taken aback. My technical course grade is an A and my teaching assistant holds me in high regard. Compared to my American peers, I not only have the ability to swiftly identify issues and supplement them with relevant techniques but also possess the creativity to merge different theories.

“In what area do I need improvement?”

The sudden prospect of delaying my graduation filled me with panic, as it’s a significant concern for me and I fear it may cause difficulties for my family.

“Language,” the old man continued, feigning sincerity, “I understand this is challenging for you.”

I was perplexed and repeatedly asked for an explanation, but he merely echoed his previous statement without offering any solutions.

“Given the year-long delay, I’ll require a new I-20.”

Caught off guard by my question, he hesitated and appeared bewildered. After a brief pause of three seconds, he managed to reply with a stuttering “Uh… yes, yes, yes.”

When I persistently inquired about additional resources, his response was simply “I don’t know”. After the interview, he provided a generic website link suggesting I could find my answers there. However, this proved to be unhelpful.

Craig Cashwell is a man of many titles including co-authoring books with other experts, former chair of CACREP (North American Counseling Certification Agency), and ex-editor of an academic journal.

His primary focus lies in religious psychotherapy and teaching trauma-related subjects. He holds an administrative position that ranks below the department chair but above all professors.

Despite his extensive experience, it’s clear that he lacks the necessary qualifications to effectively guide students towards academic success. Ironically enough, he oversees our school counseling program.

We’ve had three conversations so far; each one leaving me feeling more frustrated and helpless than before.

I consider myself resilient — whether it’s the patience cultivated from taekwondo or resilience developed from my family environment — yet every time I leave his office these strengths seem to crumble away.

I managed to hold back my tears. The following day, assisted by my roommate, I sought out the free psychological counseling available at school.

Despite undergoing this process, I ultimately decided to withdraw from school.

William Mary’s small and broken

The College of William & Mary, often abbreviated as W&M, is situated in Williamsburg County, Virginia. Despite the city designation on its address, it resembles a county town in terms of size and development.

Public transportation here is practically non-existent; thus driving becomes the only viable option for unrestricted movement.

Regarding my personal experience with local buses near my rental place: they operate at half-past and on-the-hour schedules. However, those scheduled on the hour are frequently late which leaves us reliant on the half-past ones.

Additionally, there’s no bus service during noon hours. If I don’t have morning classes, I must depart by 10 AM to catch a school-bound bus. This contrasts starkly with my undergraduate years in Minnesota where I could rely on the Metro light rail that ran every ten minutes — barring slight delays during snowstorms.

Certainly, purchasing a bicycle is an option. However, this area lacks the bike-friendly infrastructure of places like Minnesota or other major cities.

The majority of roads — about 90% — are shared with fast-moving cars, posing significant danger to cyclists. Additionally, bike theft is prevalent in the United States and often goes unaddressed by law enforcement.

Virginia’s winter weather also tends to be rainy which can make cycling hazardous. Given these factors, biking here isn’t considered safe.

I fondly recall my Trek Domaine 3XL road bike that I sold after college graduation; it was both practical and economical. It offered speed when needed and reliable brakes for safety.

The school is small and unimpressive, with a limited population that includes even fewer Chinese individuals — likely less than 300. This number wouldn’t even fill a WeChat group.

The people here possess an inexplicable sense of superiority. When I wore a shirt bearing the Minnesota logo to receive my flu vaccine, the administering nurse questioned why I was wearing apparel from another institution. My choice stemmed from struggling to find a sense of belonging at this college. I was tempted to retort, “Would you prefer to wear a green school uniform hat?”

Later in the day during class, another female student sporting a Virginia Tech shirt noticed my attire and shared her similar experience of being criticized for it on campus. She looked at me disdainfully as she remarked, “These people are absurdly nosy.”

Furthermore, they insist on being referred to as a “university” rather than a “college,” ready to argue if anyone suggests otherwise.

The school’s infrastructure, facilities, and management clearly do not meet university standards. The teaching buildings are outdated with only two mediocre cafeterias, one of which has unclean utensils. There is a library that houses a computer area on the first floor with iMACs and Windows computers.

However, beyond initial impressions, the reality is disappointing: hard and dirty seat cushions, backrests that don’t bounce back easily, and stained desks.

In November they organized pre-enrollment tours where the guide seemed quite proud of what was on display — but it all felt like an illusion.

A crucial aspect of any library is its collection of books and research materials. Unfortunately, this college falls short compared to other universities in terms of available resources.

For instance, during our group counseling class assignment to write a paper on a self-chosen topic related to group therapy (I chose non-suicidal self-injury or NSSI), I found access to relevant papers limited within our library’s database.

Out of 15 papers I needed for my research; some were older classics from before 2000 or around 2010 which were accessible through the library while others required Zotero for retrieval. Recent papers from 2020 onwards were unavailable even via Zotero forcing me to seek alternative means such as institutional websites for access.

Interestingly enough when I searched University of Minnesota’s library database these recent papers were available there but being an alumnus meant no online access or download privileges for me anymore.

This led me to realize that universities could indeed provide access so I reached out to a friend at UC Berkeley who helped download them for me enabling use of latest research material in my work — resulting in perfect score.

Despite this, some study-abroad agencies and Chinese individuals continue to endorse and select this university.

This is not only due to the perceived simplicity of its courses, often referred to as “easy courses,” but also because grading tends to be less rigorous compared to Ivy League institutions.

Many students manage to secure decent grades in their first semester without intensive studying, especially with the aid of tools like GPT, resulting in a higher GPA.

Consequently, for undergraduate students aiming for graduate or doctoral programs, this university serves as an effective stepping stone.

Upon learning about the situation, I initially believed that enduring for two years wouldn’t be a significant challenge. The tenets of Taekwondo — patience, self-discipline, and perseverance — have been deeply embedded in my character. Thus, I assumed this minor issue would soon pass.

However, reality often serves as a harsh wake-up call from our illusions.

The unique aspect of our professional graduate program compared to others is the lack of course selection freedom. All courses are pre-determined.

Paradoxically, on course selection day we must still access the webpage and register by entering predetermined course numbers.

This process provides an illusionary sense of choice and freedom; it’s essentially a “mock democracy”. While many universities may operate similarly, I find it peculiar nonetheless.


Every Monday and Thursday, I attend two classes: one from 9:00 to 11:30 AM and another from 1:00 to 3:30 PM. On Tuesdays, I have a single class from 1:00 to 3:30 PM. While Mondays and Thursdays are manageable, Tuesdays prove challenging due to the lack of midday bus service. For the first month of school, I had no choice but to leave at the same time as on Mondays — at eight in the morning.

However, things improved when my roommate bought a car; we started leaving together every Tuesday around 8:40 AM. Since our cafeteria is about a twenty-minute round trip away and only offers average food, I skip lunch on Tuesdays. Instead, I use this time in the study room for reading required chapters or writing articles.

After each class ends, there’s typically a thirty-to-forty-minute wait for the next bus. The inconsistency of its schedule led me to start taking taxis home on Mondays while waiting until my roommate finishes his last class at around six-thirty on Tuesdays so we can dine together before heading home.

Despite these challenges being initially tough to handle, over time they became more bearable though still somewhat taxing.

On my first day of school which was a Thursday, I left home twenty minutes early and walked towards Target One near my house where I caught an eight-thirty bus that got me close enough to our teaching building (the School of Education) by approximately quarter-to-nine.

Our teaching building stands isolated. On the map, it’s surrounded by nothing but wilderness where deer occasionally forage. It is a 30-minute walk from the main campus, home to most of our other academic buildings. After disembarking from the bus, a five-minute stroll leads you to an intersection. Cross this road and follow along until you reach a parking lot on your left.

A single sidewalk edges this parking lot, providing the only path leading to our solitary teaching building. Traversing across the lawn via this sidewalk brings you directly to its entrance — an eight-minute journey in total. Interestingly enough, it was here that I was once accused of “tailgating”.

Beyond the teaching building lies a sprawling lawn with what appears as an oceanic forest in its backdrop. An artificial boardwalk weaves through these woods and connects back to “land”, serving as another link between this remote structure and our main campus.

The interior corridor may be narrow but compensates with spacious classrooms; particularly one on the first floor which can accommodate up to 50 people — making it the largest room within this facility. The remaining classrooms are perfectly sized for our class of 35 students.

Upon entering my classroom, I quickly realized that I was its sole Chinese occupant; so I chose my seat carefully before settling down with some music playing softly through my headphones. Despite becoming more sociable during my final undergraduate semester, unfamiliar surroundings still trigger my instinctive self-preservation mode.

In an unusual move, our teacher had us answer self-introduction questions about why we chose our major and what our hobbies were. Having spent the last six months in my home country, I found myself struggling with English fluency. This was partly due to my speaking habits; unlike Americans who speak rapidly, I tend to pause for thought when expressing serious ideas or thoughts.

My friend J noticed my distress and said, “I know you have a lot of thoughts that you need to quickly translate into English.” It struck me then — if even my classmates understood this struggle, why should language be a barrier?

J is 30 years old this year. I discovered everyone’s age during the introductory session two weeks before school started and was surprised by the diversity in our class.

Unlike in China where most students pursue further education immediately after their undergraduate degree, few Americans do so as they can find jobs easily. Those who choose graduate programs often have work experience and savings.

Our program is quite diverse due to its specialized nature; there are only five males while thirty students are female. The gender imbalance puzzled me initially until I realized that men were actually rare in this field.

The age range varies widely too — from late twenties for most females up to fifty for two older women. At just 22 years old myself, I am definitely one of the youngest which prompted exclamations of “So young!” from my classmates.

Despite their experience and seniority, these individuals are less formal than the adults in my home country, making them quite approachable.

My interest in classic music and American movies bridges any potential generational gap, save for my unfamiliarity with English terminology related to these topics.

Instead of fostering a competitive environment when faced with challenges such as speeches or assignments, we support and encourage each other. This is the first time I’ve experienced such a friendly collective.

I met J during the latter part of our weekly group therapy session. In the second week of school, we were divided into small groups led by doctoral students for what was intended to be experiential group therapy.

However, instead of focusing on therapy, we engaged in thoughtful discussions about issues raised by either group members or the doctoral student leading us.

Noticing that I hadn’t yet spoken up during these discussions, J often directed questions towards me and was also the first person to pronounce my name correctly.

In an effort to overcome my introverted nature later on, I made it a point to change tables almost every class apart from group therapy sessions which took place in classrooms with six large tables.

This allowed me not only to interact with different classmates but also practice speaking skills extensively. Within just six classes I became familiar with most of my classmates while significantly improving my fluency.

Just when life seemed routine again though; an unexpected email arrived from Cashwell requesting a meeting.

In the sweltering heat of mid-September Virginia, the classroom’s air conditioning provided a welcome respite. After class, I ascended to the third floor where few people knew him; our only previous encounter was at a freshman welcoming event before school started.

We convened in the first-floor group therapy classroom — the largest one available. Professors occupied front seats while Cashwell paced between podium and aisles, his bald head gleaming under bright lights.

His serious demeanor and authoritative presence were accentuated by his white beard bobbing beneath his chin as he spoke. It appeared as though he was orchestrating proceedings among five other professors — an activity that held no interest for me due to its tedious nature.

The most memorable part of this session was when professors explained their choice of counseling careers — most claimed it had been their childhood dream. This revelation surprised me because not only was this profession unfamiliar in my home country but also because my family hadn’t supported my decision to major in it at 17 years old. During this time, I discovered that Cashwell served as our school’s counseling advisor.

Upon entering his office later on, he greeted me with an insincere American smile and gestured for me to sit down. Our initial meeting revolved around psychoanalysis discussions — he proudly showed off a photograph of Sigmund Freud’s couch from Paris and shared stories about walking Freud’s daughter’s path — a fact which didn’t alleviate my nervousness given his lack of sincerity or genuine concern.

Towards our conversation’s end, he asked if similar projects existed in China — I initially thought he wanted insights into China’s psychological counseling market so I answered “No,” providing some information about Chinese mental health services just like how I would interact with an undergraduate advisor since I needed assistance too.

Afterward however, confusion set in — this experience contrasted starkly with those during my undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota where advisors helped plan academic progress and manage transcripts. For instance, when my transcript incorrectly showed an incomplete second foreign language requirement, my advisor Jean promptly corrected it after I brought it to her attention.

Our discussions were always centered on academic matters, rather than casual chit-chat or personal issues. She guided me in selecting my courses during my freshman year and helped map out the next two years of study during my sophomore year.

Recognizing that solely focusing on psychology credits wouldn’t suffice, she suggested a minor in business tailored to my circumstances.

Typically, I was the one initiating contact through emails or appointments via the school’s website, unlike Cashwell who rarely took proactive steps to reach out.

After each meeting, she would provide an array of useful resources based on our discussion — a stark contrast to Cashwell who only offered basic webpages.

A particularly memorable moment occurred during my freshman year when I was under immense family pressure to graduate early and focus solely on academics.

Jean posed questions like “What are your plans after completing this major? What do you want to do post-graduation?” At that time, these queries left me dumbfounded as beyond achieving good grades and graduating early; I hadn’t given them much thought.

Despite eventually graduating due to familial pressure, I remain grateful for this advisor’s guidance which sparked introspection about my future aspirations.

While rules vary across institutions, my peers at NYU and Columbia suggest that advisors generally operate in a similar manner, which contrasts with the unusual approach taken by those at my current college.

In early October, I reached out via email to inquire about changing majors.

The advisor responded tersely: “When are you available for a meeting?” After providing a suitable time and asking if any preparation was necessary on my part, he simply replied ‘no’.

This left me feeling uneasy as I had never previously needed to engage so frequently with an advisor. Moreover, our initial interaction did not leave a positive impression on me. As anticipated based on this first encounter, our subsequent meeting in early October proved not only unfriendly but also quite demeaning for me.

Upon sitting down, I had anticipated an immediate discussion about changing majors. Instead, he began with some small talk before asking, “Does China have a similar program?” His question left me puzzled; perhaps his memory was failing him. Regardless, I patiently clarified the matter once more.

His tone shifted as he said, “I’m here to discuss your issue.” He then flashed a disingenuous smile and without waiting for my reply continued, “Someone reported that you’ve been following people to the parking lot.”

A knot formed in my chest and anger welled up within me. Keeping my emotions in check, I stared at him in disbelief. This accusation was nothing short of an affront to my character and dignity.

“How can that be?” I began, raising my voice to clarify, but he cut me off. “I’m just sharing what I know,” he said.

“That’s not accurate… (Don’t you check the facts?)” I started, only to be interrupted again.

He feigned anger and shouted, “Argue with me one more time!” Once calm, he added, “You should say ‘In my experience…’”

“In my experience,” I countered, “this is the only pedestrian path leading across the road; it’s merely suitable for parking lots.” I explained how every day after school: ‘On Mondays I take the bus; on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my roommate gives me a ride.’

But regardless of what I said, he acted helpless. He shook his head saying ‘I’m just stating things as they appear to me,’ then added dismissively ‘Maybe it was different at the start of term.’ My doctoral roommate suggested that by this point prejudice had already set in against me.”

So finally asked him directly: “Then tell me which way should we go?”

“Let them go first,” was his surprising response. It seemed there were unexpected surprises even overseas.

It’s been nearly a month now since all this happened — why are you telling me only now? Is this deliberate?

Silence enveloped us as words failed to express my seething anger. All energy was spent containing it leaving no room for speech. Seeing my silence he continued: “The next issue is your contradiction of our teacher.”

The incident occurred at the start of the school year, a time when my speaking skills were still rusty. I asked direct questions in an attempt to gain knowledge.

When I realized that my approach was inappropriate, I immediately apologized after our conversation and followed up with an apology email once home. My relationship with the professors seemed to improve afterwards; we got along well, so your bringing this issue up again is unexpected.

He then stated, “…and psychoanalysis is outdated.”

Suddenly it clicked — it must have been those two black professors as psychoanalysis was only discussed in their classes.

One of these professors was Dr. Augustine who boasts an impressive ten-page resume. The class topic at that time revolved around Feminist Therapy — a psychological treatment method emphasizing on how women’s personal and social identities impact mental health while stressing equality, empowerment, and socio-cultural factors in therapy.

We explored how black female pioneers significantly contributed to advancing this feminist movement with discussions centered on race, white supremacy, the status of blacks, and political influences affecting them.

Upon careful consideration, it becomes clear that this debate is likely to descend into a circular argument. As the conversation delves deeper, harsh words become inevitable, limiting us to discussing only superficial topics and pre-established ideologies.

To put it simply, the Black professor plays dual roles in this discussion — both as a participant and an arbitrator. In fact, when students pose fundamental questions about sexuality, no one dares respond; they can only wait for Augustine’s summer course on sexuality.

After class I asked the professor: “What exactly is the aim of this class? It seems like you’re directing our discussions towards pointless political debates.

Furthermore, isn’t race considered a construct in psychoanalysis?“ I continued by stating that ”The initial declaration of women’s independence wasn’t made by black women but white ones. Only after that did women gradually start gaining property rights equal to men.”

I attempted to engage with her using my existing knowledge base — which appears to be standard practice when posing questions at college level.

The idea being not just to demonstrate our understanding but also allow professors an opportunity to correct or supplement our information. However, this particular professor didn’t follow suit.

Despite explaining things with a smile later on, I felt slighted and shared my feelings with Cashwell during our weekly staff meeting.

Cashwell’s emphasis on authority suggests that challenging professors is futile due to their superior status. This mindset, prevalent in today’s society, should not exist within the realm of education.

The tendency to submit to authority without question stifles scientific curiosity and critical thinking. It is disconcerting that such a perspective comes from an educational professional.

The defense of one’s own authority and reputation can often hint at arrogance. Augustine assigns extensive pre-class readings each week, yet the class content remains superficial; we merely learn names of novel therapies rather than gaining deep understanding.

A professor who merely goes through the motions, adheres rigidly to their own ideas, and perceives unfamiliar questions as threats cannot be deemed effective regardless of their title or experience.

Meanwhile, Professor Harris was leading discussions on racial issues during school counseling sessions — addressing discrimination, exploring counselors’ roles in promoting social justice and advocacy etcetera.

Ironically though, when faced with an actual instance of racial discrimination she seemed indifferent and her stance shifted significantly. Her response suggested reluctance: “I cannot and should not do that but if you need help I will assist you.”

After class I questioned her using my knowledge of psychoanalysis — why couldn’t we delve into deeper aspects like politics or ideologies? What then was the purpose or significance behind these discussions?”

“He continued, ”You can’t sleep in class either.”

I couldn’t help but laugh and cry. Here we were in graduate school, still discussing sleeping in class. It seemed acceptable for Americans to do so, but not me?

He forcefully interrupted my defense and I fell silent. He didn’t allow me any opportunity to speak or explain myself; instead he belittled me, exaggerating every minor issue while lecturing me with a paternalistic tone.

“If you withdraw from the project before October 8th,” he said finally, “you can still get a refund. Think about it.”

As he dismissed me, his false comfort rang hollow: “I know today’s information overload wasn’t easy for you.”

All I wanted was to escape that room. My anger at being defamed and misunderstood had no outlet due to my unwillingness to cause further trouble or give him satisfaction by reacting visibly upset. So I internalized this rage which began eating away at me internally.

With heavy steps and leaning against the hallway wall for support, I left his office carrying my backpack filled with sadness rather than books. When I reached the lounge area, exhaustion overcame me and I sank into the blue fabric sofa — an island of softness amidst the cold rigidity of academia.

My attempts at organizing my thoughts failed as tears welled up uncontrollably in my eyes. After some time spent crying alone on that sofa, I called my roommate asking him if he could pick me up because waiting for a bus felt like an insurmountable task.


October in Virginia is particularly challenging for me. It seems to trigger my seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition I’ve had since I was 15, which not only prompts an early onset of depression but also amplifies my distress.

Back then, I didn’t understand why the approach of autumn made me feel inexplicably melancholic until studying psychology in college provided clarity.

I used to return frequently to the Northeast during this time and attended university in Minnesota where autumn was brief. Consequently, SAD affected me minimally, typically lasting just about a week with little impact on my daily life.

However, autumn in Virginia is notably prolonged. The temperature fluctuates unpredictably between warm and cold spells; sometimes it remains high for extended periods accompanied by intense sunlight and gusty winds — all of which confound my body’s rhythm.

Throughout October, I struggle to muster energy for even mundane tasks. Merely glancing at textbooks can bring tears to my eyes; participating actively in group discussions becomes an uphill battle as concentration eludes me while unshed tears blur my vision.

J noticed my melancholy and began inviting me to join him and his friends at the park every Wednesday. We engaged in various activities such as basketball, football, baseball, and disc golf — all of which were new experiences for me.

Later on, we joined a group of girls for a trip to James Town beach. They conversed freely amongst themselves; foreigners often speak rapidly without pause making it challenging for me to contribute. Despite this, I vividly remember the breathtaking sunset that day where the sea seamlessly merged with the sky.

As October drew to an end, Halloween festivities started permeating supermarkets, schools and other public spaces. One Saturday evening found G and I exploring an American bar — another first-time experience for me.

Outside was a small area hosting a live band performance; however their music was so loud that understanding their lyrics proved impossible despite J’s familiarity with them as he hummed along effortlessly.

During the band’s break we met the lead singer and his punk girlfriend who were dressed as vampires. While I remained mostly silent during our encounter due to my limited social skills compared to J’s adeptness at mingling — they even bought cigarettes together while dancing enthusiastically during subsequent performances!

This exposure broadened my perspective towards foreign women’s openness but also helped alleviate some of my apprehension about social gatherings.

Their companionship gradually lifted my spirits and restored some lost confidence.

During the week of October 31st, my classmates invited me to a Halloween party. It was a dreary, rainy day — weather I had grown to dislike since our second meeting. Now it seemed that nine times out of ten, when my mood soured, rain would follow the next day. Like an internal barometer predicting storms ahead.

After class that day, I felt eager to retreat home due to my low spirits and lack of appetite; having not eaten since Friday and now being Tuesday. As I walked home in the cold raindrops which brought me back from my thoughts, I found myself frozen with fear at my own state of mind.

If there had been a mirror nearby, it would have reflected a face etched with sadness and worry. To escape this feeling, I quickened my pace but as soon as I reached the parking lot a bus passed by blocking my path. Seeing that the next Transit 3 wasn’t due for another 40 minutes left me disheartened.

My face paled and hopelessness washed over me causing an involuntary about-face towards where they were gathering for their party. A thought crossed through my mind: “Why not join them? After all, experiencing an American party could be something new.”

My classmate C, who specializes in Military Counseling, drove me to the party. Upon arrival, several classmates had already formed small conversational groups. I’m not typically fond of parties as they often lack engaging activities; I’d rather dine out, read books or partake in recreational activities with a few friends. However, on this occasion, I found myself staying longer than expected.

Once everyone arrived, we began playing a game called “You Say, I Guess,” reminiscent of those seen on variety shows. Each participant had a card placed on their forehead and the objective was to guess its content by asking yes-or-no questions. Utilizing my knowledge of cognitive psychology allowed me to ask effective questions that led to quick and accurate guesses.

This game helped restore my rationality and gradually improved my mood. By the time we left the venue — when the rain outside had ceased — my spirits were significantly lifted.


As November waned, the temperature began to drop, hovering around fifteen to sixteen degrees. We were all engrossed in preparing for final papers, group presentations and assignments. Our spirits lifted as we made steady progress on our tasks.

During this time, I received another email from the old man asking when I would be free next week for a chat. Upon reading it, my palms grew sweaty and my heart pounded — yet there was no panic; it felt like a familiar bout of PTSD 4. When I asked if there was anything specific he wanted to discuss that required mental preparation on my part, he assured me there wasn’t.

Whether out of trust or adherence to the principles of psychological counseling centers’ visitor policy, I decided once again to meet him.

After exchanging pleasantries at our meeting — his insincere and mine noncommittal — he dropped a bombshell: “We have decided to postpone your practicum.”

“Why?” My surprise was evident in my voice.

“Because you need to improve your skills,” came his cryptic reply.

Oddly enough, up until now I had been scoring an A in this course. “In what area do I need improvement?”

“Just technology,” he said calmly.

“And specifically?”

“Language.” He seemed reluctant as he uttered these words before suggesting that since the course wouldn’t be available until springtime next year, it would be best if I started looking into other options immediately.

My voice shook slightly as confusion set in: “Language?”

At that moment self-doubt crept in — typical behavior for someone dealing with depression — making me internalize this setback as entirely my fault.

“But can you help me? This profession is truly important to me.”

He neither agreed nor disagreed but instead busied himself replying emails on his device without paying any attention.

“When will training commence then?”

“As this course is only offered during spring semester, you’ll have to wait until next year.”

“So, are you suggesting I delay my practicum by a year and a half?” The realization hit me hard. Postponing the training would inevitably mean delaying the start of my internship as well.

“Could you assist me in planning my courses or altering my major?” He leisurely returned to his computer desk and printed the familiar course schedule. “Review this and make your selection.”

I’m dealing with an antiquated registration system. To enroll in a course, I must enter the precise course number; there is no provision for a general search. For my project, I am limited to choosing from the courses listed on this system each semester. Without knowing which courses are available and which aren’t, how can I be expected to decide independently?

“If it gets deferred for a year, will my I-20 need adjustment?”

After our lengthy discussion, he decided to delay me for a year but failed to mention anything about the I-20. So, symbolically, I asked.

He seemed taken aback by my question as if he had anticipated it yet was unprepared for it. After three seconds of silence, he casually responded: “Yes indeed that is another matter.”

At universities like Minnesota advisors proactively guide you through such processes. When I wanted to graduate early Jean assisted me in adjusting my graduation date and then reminded me about updating the I-20 formality too.

It would be unfair of me to claim without evidence that this college lacks experience serving international students but the fact that they were ill-prepared when dealing with their only international student — myself — suggests an ineffective advisor-ship program at best. The irony isn’t lost on me either — an educational institution failing its teachings on race equality issues.

“Do similar programs exist in China?” As our meeting drew towards closure he posed this question again — third time now.

“No,” came out my usual response without any further explanation.

At this point, I’m at my breaking point. My eyes well up with tears that despite my best efforts to hold back, trickle down my cheeks leaving a wet trail.

As college students, we place immense trust in our advisors. However, the old adage “things happen in threes” rings true here. Even though I am trusting and have faith in my teacher, it’s impossible for me not to harbor doubts now.

It seems like a veiled attempt to make me withdraw from this project; there is clear discrimination at play here. Not only do I consistently achieve straight A’s but having lived and studied in the United States for five years, language should not be an issue.

Moreover, the school has a responsibility to assist students seeking consultation find suitable training before the spring semester commences. Yet it was precisely towards the end of November when he reached out with this discriminatory reason as an obstacle — just as the semester was drawing to a close.

It’s hard not to suspect they’re using this as an excuse because they failed to secure a training placement for me.

For non-native speakers, language can feel like navigating life with a broken arm — no matter what you do; things will never be quite how they were before your arm broke.

To illustrate further: imagine being an exceptionally talented hairdresser applying for work at a salon where everyone appreciates your skills except for one person -the boss- who refuses you employment on account of your baldness.

I trusted my advisor, as any student should. In our first meeting, I disclosed some details about my family’s financial situation. A typical advisor would have suggested applying for financial aid or scholarships, but he didn’t. Instead, he seemed to exploit this vulnerability to prolong my graduation timeline.

He might have thought that if I couldn’t afford tuition by then, I’d quit. This delay meant taking only one class each semester from spring 2025 to spring 2026.

If we break down the costs: insurance is $2000 per semester; rent is $850; living expenses are $1000; and tuition without credits is $1800 — making a single class cost around $5400. Over a four-month semester and two academic years costing a total of 900,000 RMB ($44,400), it means an additional expense of approximately 320,000 RMB ($44,400). If all this effort results in nothing more than exhaustion and an unpaid internship recommended by the school — it’s not worth it.

Moreover, his monthly confrontations aimed at belittling me were discouraging and provocative when I refused to engage with him. Despite graduating from his institution,I plan on working back home rather than leveraging its reputation in the US . His behavior baffles me — perhaps it stems from personal or religious biases against Chinese people? Another Korean-American peer confirmed she had never been approached by him either.

The discrimination that was once just news stories has become my reality — is this what college life entails?

One late November day found myself sitting alone on the first floor of a slightly chilly building for hours on end — sometimes sobbing quietly, sometimes crying out loud. If you saw me then, you might’ve wondered if i was mentally ill. The resilience I used to take pride in vanished that day, and since then, I’ve been struggling to regain it. My self-confidence crumbled, replaced with self-deprecation. I felt unable to sustain my existence. My family’s likely response — “Just try to be more positive” — led me to keep these experiences hidden, increasing my sense of isolation.

At that moment, a wave of negative emotions and past traumas crashed over me, relentlessly battering my psychological defenses.

School Psychological Services

After my second meeting, I scheduled an appointment with the school’s counseling service. The earliest slot was in early November, three weeks from mid-October. On Friday, November 3rd, I discussed my situation with a counselor.

“Depression can be unpredictable,” she said. “It can fluctuate between good and bad days or suddenly worsen due to minor issues.”

“What is my current state?” I asked.

“You may be experiencing moderate to severe depression,” she replied.

She then arranged for me to consult a psychiatrist about potential medication. A week later, I had this conversation with the psychiatrist who took time — around thirty to forty minutes — understanding my condition rather than hastily prescribing medication as is common in domestic hospitals. She warned me of significant side effects associated with the drugs and suggested trying light box therapy first since my issue seemed like seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

This would help determine if light therapy could alleviate my mood swings. Two weeks later, after another visit to the clinic, a doctor finally gave me Light Box 6. This entire process spanned three weeks.

Honestly speaking, this procedure didn’t promptly address my mental health concerns nor did it significantly improve them through therapy sessions alone. However, support from classmates somewhat uplifted my spirits and as semester-end neared; I regained focus on assignments just in time for Cashwell’s unexpected blow on November 28th right after Thanksgiving.

The following day saw me at the school’s health service center accompanied by a concerned roommate who remarked: “I shudder thinking what might have happened if you were living alone!”

Opting for emergency psychological services this time around led me back into counseling where I shared all that transpired recently leading up to another appointment with a psychiatrist who refrained from prescribing any medication considering risks involved but assured that once circumstances improved so would depressive symptoms which he termed as ‘situational’. He also advised visiting Dean of Student Office.

The power of embrace

Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a warm and kind-hearted aunt. Her confident voice and sincere smile immediately put me at ease. The room was comfortable, and furnished with a plush fabric sofa. A new intern teacher, who seemed to be in training, was also present.

I shared everything that had transpired — the facts as well as my emotions — pouring out all of it without reservation. They listened patiently to every word I said. When the topic of language came up, they unanimously reassured me that there were no issues with it.

“I chose this path because I wanted to help others,” I confessed, “but now… life seems hopeless.”

“You need to understand,” one of them replied gently, “that you too require help from others.”

This statement resonated deeply within me; like spring sunshine piercing through clouds into my gloomy inner world. It dawned on me how long I’d been trying to handle everything independently and forgotten about seeking assistance from others.

“I’ll compile all the information before tonight and email them promptly,” one assured me further. “You’ll have all the details day after tomorrow.”

“Thank you”

“May I hug you?”

Expecting a light embrace, I agreed to say “Okay”. However, what followed took me by surprise: an intense ten-second hug from Auntie which felt like forever!

As soon as I tried stepping back thinking it was over; her grip tightened even more — akin to reins submerged in water — providing an unprecedented sense of security and warmth that moved me profoundly enough for tears to flow freely down my cheeks during this most challenging period of the year.

It marked not only a rare moment when someone showed genuine concern for my wellbeing but also underscored the power of human touch we often underestimate.

I adhered to the school’s protocols, and despite a change in our project advisor earlier this year, it didn’t impact Cashwell. He merely transitioned from his previous role but continues to hold a significant managerial position.

Over the past month, I’ve sent nearly 20 emails to Mason, who is overseeing this issue. Yet until now, I haven’t received any substantial responses — only requests for more information and notifications that the College of Education needs to conduct a faculty review before providing an answer or relevant academic plans.

This gives me the impression they’re not treating this as a discrimination issue and are intentionally delaying their response. If they proceed with a review process, it could take two to three months — a considerable drain on my time and energy without any apparent benefit.

During Christmas break, I vacationed in San Francisco but found myself unable to escape my worries even when returning each day to my hotel room.

Now I find myself occasionally doubting and belittling myself; only through psychology and writing can I manage these feelings of anxiety. My mood swings frequently like predicting rain — it’s hard for me to envision what lies ahead in the future.

The existentialist approach suggested by some classmates — to focus on the present moment while exploring autonomous choices — seems most applicable right now.

I sincerely hope I can regain my happiness and trust in this counseling career.

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