You are Entitled to Nothing

"Americans, Canadians, Europeans, we’re all so used to showing up to places and being welcomed with basically open arms and a red carpet; when we’re not, we act like it’s some kind of grave injustice."

Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of American students complaining about how they can’t stay and work in China after graduation because they don’t meet the visa requirements? Actually, that’s unfair. I know some international students that whine about it too. I really didn’t want to say anything, but it’s gotten to a point where I’m just sick and tired of the frankly entitled attitudes that so many people at this school seem to have and I just can’t keep my feelings to myself anymore. So I’m sorry in advance if this article hurts anyone’s precious feelings, but guys, grow up. You are entitled to nothing.

Right now seniors are in the middle of coming to grips with the terrifying, existential realization that college is ending and we need to find something to do with our lives afterwards. Whether its grad school, job hunting, Peace Corps, or something else, everyday I run into seniors with a mild look of panic in their eyes as they struggle to meet application deadlines, polish up resumes, or study for the GRE or LSAT. Or if they’re like me, crawling up into a ball of denial and doing absolutely nothing. Adulthood is scary and maybe that’s why a whole segment of our student body has regressed into tantrum-throwing children. At the senior meeting at the beginning of the semester, news that most international students would not be able to stay in China on a work visa after graduation was met with cries of protest. Chinese work visa requirements are confusing but according to the most recent laws, students either can work in Shanghai’s experimental Free Trade Zone or have two years of post-graduate work experience. It’s unclear how lax or restrictive these requirements are or if they’ll be changed now or in the future. But arguing that the government or the school should do something to change visa requirements or that the government or school somehow owes us something in that regard? Um, no.

Then there were also complaints about how at career fair, most employers were really only looking for Chinese nationals or those with a high level of Chinese fluency and so international students felt like they were wasting their time. To an extent, I understand people’s frustrations about this too because they’re frustrations that I share. The CDC should definitely advertise better which opportunities international students have a fair shot at and which ones are only targeted towards Chinese students. Who wants to spend all night working on a resume only to be told the next day that it was a wasted effort? But complaining that the visa requirements are “unfair” or even that the CDC (which works very hard) isn’t doing its job by not finding enough opportunities for international students isn’t something I can get behind.

Let me put this another way. Last fall I studied in New York and like any other student, I was eager to take advantage of the countless opportunities that the city presented me with. But I ran into a lot of problems since, of course, I was not American. I could only take unpaid internships because I couldn’t get a valid work visa, and even among unpaid internships, a good number only wanted American citizens who could commit for the long term. Where are the complaints about how unfair this is? Where are the students complaining about how NYU should do more to help its international students get jobs or make deals with the government for more lax visa requirements? Later, I started looking into the process of applying for a work visa, since I want to live and work in America after graduation and it turns out, it’s pretty hard even for someone like me with a fair amount of privilege.  I’m Canadian. We’re basically the 51st American state. We share an undefended border with America. We’re culturally similar if not identical. Our nations have close business ties. We are friends and allies. But despite all that, it’s still really difficult for me to get an American work visa. Even if I went to NYU proper, I would still have to apply like anyone else to get a visa to stay in America and that requires getting an employer to sponsor me. And what employer wants to sponsor an entry-level employee when they could just hire an American? I can’t even imagine what it’s like for students from other countries who would have trouble even getting into the country in the first place. My visa process to study abroad in America, took one day. ONE DAY. You know how long it took some of our Chinese classmates? Months. And did you know that it’s virtually impossible for them to go to Sydney for study abroad? If anyone has the right to complain, they do.

Americans, Canadians, Europeans, we’re all so used to showing up to places and being welcomed with basically open arms and a red carpet; when we’re not, we act like it’s some kind of grave injustice. But think about your friends who’re Chinese, or Indian or Pakistani. I’m guilty of it too. I plan trips to places without ever giving a thought to visa issues. I once booked a trip to Malaysia, and only once I was actually IN LINE at immigration did I suddenly wonder if I needed to have applied for a visa. Meanwhile, whenever I want to take my friends from places in the world whose passports don’t have as much power as mine on trips with me, the first words out of their mouths are always: “I can’t get a visa”, or the “process is too long”, or “my visa got rejected.”

“My visa got rejected.” I don’t even know what those words mean. My only limitations on going to places have been either that I don’t have enough money or enough time, not that they physically wouldn’t let me into the country. Maybe that’s why it kills me when Americans especially complain about immigration laws. You guys are literally talking about building a wall because you don’t want certain people in your country yet you want preferential treatment when it comes to other countries. If people suddenly couldn’t go to Cancun for their #springbreak trips, they’d lose their shit.  Just think about your history with immigration for a second before you start thinking that you are owed something by other countries. Maybe think about the heartbreak the undocumented families have to go through. These are people that came to America, maybe fell in love with an American, had a family and then got caught, separated from their family and deported from the country. Or, something that’s gotten a lot less media attention: the quiet crackdown on Indian immigrants. Since 2010, the number of Indians detained by the US had jumped from 200 to 1200. In the words of one American diplomat:  “None of you are doctors, none of you are engineers. Why would America want you?” And don’t even get me started on Syria. You wouldn’t even let in people who are trying to escape a war-torn country. These are people for whom immigration means the difference between life and death, and you people couldn’t even muster up enough compassion or human decency to help them because you were busy dehumanizing them by comparing them to skittles. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?  HA.

And yet some of you are laboring under the impression that the Chinese government owes a bunch of privileged, spoiled 20-year-olds with no work experience entry into the Chinese workplace, which, mind you, is already competitive enough. Complaining about how companies only want people fluent in Chinese or are Chinese nationals to work for them? No shit, YOU’RE IN CHINA. If you want to work here so badly, take more Chinese classes, put in some more effort and then suck it up and apply for a visa like everyone else. When my mom immigrated to Canada, she learned English in six months. And she didn’t have the benefit of teachers or people to practice conversation with.

If you’re a child of immigrants, you know about the questionable, sometimes downright illegal crap your parents had to do to get to where they were. And why did they do it? For us. For a future for their children, for a future they felt we couldn’t have had in the 70s or 80s in China, in India, in Vietnam or wherever. And you? What’s your motivation? Why do you want to stay so bad? Do you want to build a life here or will you leave after a few years whenever you get bored? Even the words used to talk about the former versus the latter shows what the answer is and the ridiculous amount of privilege the people who are complaining have: immigrants vs expats.  If you’re want to build a life here, then you should be willing to do whatever it takes to do that. Not throwing a tantrum when things don’t go your way. The visa requirements aren’t that tough, especially in comparison to other places like America. Because speaking of downright illegal crap, look no further than the tutoring jobs that so many students seem to have. The CDC didn’t give us those. And I’m sure there are places who would hire international students, laws be damned, but the school’s definitely not going to tell us about them. We can’t be spoon fed everything. At some point, you have to grow up and set out on your own. I know it’s scary, I know it seems impossible, but it has to be done. Use your connections from internships, from friends, family, or whatever else but don’t use the excuse of “oh but the CDC isn’t doing enough.” How dare they not just place a job into our waiting hands?  If there are legitimate opportunities out there, they’ll let us know, in the meantime, check your damn emails.

Don’t get me wrong. Do I think that borders should be more porous and allow for greater freedom of movement of people between them? Yes. Obviously as someone who comes from an immigrant family and supports immigrant causes I hope that someday we won’t have stupid visa rules.  But I’m not going to blindly throw around words like “global citizen” or “cosmopolitan” without knowing the power and privilege people who can afford to use these words wield over those that can’t. Do the people who are stuck in detention centers all across America feel like a global citizen? No. It’s the college student who went to Paris or volunteered in Kenya for one semester and constantly talks about how the experience changed their life and how #blessed they are. If you’re going to be upset, if you’re going to fight, then do it so everyone benefits not just the people who already have access to the world in a way that most people consider being a wild dream.


This article was written by Rae Dehal. Please send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: shanghaijungle.com

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