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“THE LAST STRAW IN PRAISE OF CAMELS”: Overseas international students’ “Last straw” of committing suicide

An MBA student Heng Guo (Nikita) at MIT’s Sloan School committed suicide in her apartment in Cambridge. In October 2014, A 20-year-old exchange student Yangkai Li studying at Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University committed suicide by jumping from a nearby dormitory, becoming yet another tragic example of a student unable to cope with the pressures of their experience. As well, 22-year-old California State University international student Lin Xu jumped from a five-story building after failing to complete a school project.

I heard many news and comments about overseas student commit suicide.  I used to despise those who give up halfway, retreat, and choose to commit suicide. I even think those ruined their parents' efforts, incredibly irresponsible people. I despise those until I carry three 26 kg suitcases coming to Canada becoming an international journalism student at Humber until I failed to cope with the difficulty, loneliness, and desperation in a foreign country.

I began to understand those who choose to commit suicide and why they make such an extreme decision when people shout at me “you don’t speak English, go back to China…” ; when a landlord refused to rent me an apartment because I am Chinese; when I never understood the jokes and why my classmates were laughing in class; when I passed out in front of City Hall during waiting to interview a politician; when a Humber Chinese student cut off her wrist in front of me, and the blood came out from her skin; when I walked into the cold Lake Ontario for trying to sink myself to death in the winter.

Nobody wants to choose giving up life, but in a moment,  it just happened that life crushed a person.


About committing suicide, you have to put yourself in their shoes.

A study in Canada, one of my greatest achievement is learned how to think from other people’s point of view, how to respect other people’s decision. People are different, and I cannot impose my ideas on others. I can only try to guess, people who chose to give up, have their stories.

I read an article about an excellent Middle East female journalist who chose to commit suicide in a UK airport washroom because she missed her flight and did not have enough cash for a new ticket. It was shocking news.  Some people have a hard time to understand the way she chose to end her life. In the battle of Middle East, she probably experienced the most difficult life and saw the death of many people, why did she choose to commit suicide because of missing a flight people are wondering?

My favorite article "The Last Straw in Praise of Camels" mentions that "you never know what she experienced before choosing to die." What you see may be that the female reporter committed suicide after missing a flight, but you never know how she is under pressure to make this choice. She may give up a lot of things for her work; she may have gone through thousands of failures; the mood may have reached the last straw, but also at this time, she missed the flight. Missing a flight is just a trivial matter, but it will make you think of the various moments before, make you feel in a flash that you can not make things right, even small things, make you feel you are useless and weak. The kind of despair is perhaps the real cause of her suicide.

Lin Xu at California State University, the talented Guo Heng in MIT, Li Yangkai at John Hopkins, etc., those international geniuses were at top world universities. In the eyes of outsiders, they are favored, gifted, and born with God’s blessing; they have an enviable life, but who knows their unknown sadness.

Studying abroad taught me to cherish, to appreciate what I have in my life.  In my case, I used to be less concerned about the results of my studies. Instead, I firmly believed that an independent individual must be fully developed, and broaden horizons. College marks are only a very humble part of life experiences. However, and right now at Humber college, I may be sad for a whole day because of a B-grade paper, I am sad not because my point of view changed, I understand that the B-grade paper will not have a huge impact on my life. I know it is just a paper, and it does not mean anything, but this means that I missed a thing I could have done better. After growing up and becoming a mature woman, the world becomes complicated, and there are too many things that I can not control.

Because of this, when you failed to do such a small thing in life, it is often the most desperate time, at that moment, you think you have nothing. Like the Middle East female journalist, as a journalist, she may not be able to stop the brutality of the war, to help the displaced children, and have to watch them die. Day after day, she exercised the kind of fortitude and strength because of that. She knew a lot of things she could not control, so she chose to be strong at those times. The missed flight which is such a small thing, a small thing that could have been completely avoided, often that makes people desperate.

When the world becomes complicated, when you give without expecting a return, you will begin to cherish simple things you can do, such as writing a school paper.

The question is how to choose

There may be hundreds of reasons for failure, but sometimes they think it’s all their fault. There are hundreds of reasons to forgive yourself, but they choose the kind to blame themselves. They may have hundred of ways to vent the grief and discontent, but they choose to die. You can say they are extreme, but please do not say they are cowardly because that's the way they choose. This approach, like the other 99, is also a way of solving the problem.

Suicide is not really cowardice

To a large extent, I think suicide is not a cowardly or irresponsible behavior, but a very courageous behavior. People told me that I could not accept suicide anyway because being alive is wonderful. You are not them, how can you say you understand their sadness.

You are not them, so you can not see the world from their point of view. You are not them; you do not know how they are struggling. Death may be their careful decision after a long time considering.

When life puts international students in a dilemma, they may find it difficult to see what they have. When they do not feel positive from the family and friends’ surrounding or had too much "responsible for others," making a "selfish" decision may be simpler and easier for them.

Studying abroad is wonderful, I never denied this. I have never regretted making a decision to study abroad. Studying abroad also lets me have the opportunity to see the world at a young age, to experience a different culture. I became more independent, and know how to take care of my daily diet, how to think critically, how to express my point of view, how to find arguments to support my point of view. I believe that most international students are lucky to know how lucky they are, and because of this luck, we become more reluctant to admit defeat, and thus more lonely.

Everyone wants different things. Most of the time people could not see what they have, but see how much they have not achieved. A rich person could be sad because what he wanted is a happy family instead of money. A Hollywood movie star could be depressed because what he wanted is a person who truly understands him instead of millions of fans and awards.

In the eyes of outsiders, they may have everything, but in their view, they have nothing.




Jiangli TianComment