It’s no secret that college can be stressful. But compound it with the difficulties of navigating a new country and a new language, and the stress can become too much to handle.
Now, a donation from a Fordham family will help address these issues within the University’s expanding Chinese student community.
The $50,000 gift will go toward hiring a part-time bilingual psychologist to help with issues that are unique—and a few that are not so unique—to Chinese students transitioning to life in New York City. The Lincoln Center-based therapist will be familiar with Chinese culture and provide mental health outreach and clinical services.
The gift was made by family members of a Fordham College at Lincoln Center freshman. The family members, Howie Wang and Toshi Chan, both live in New York City, and understand the challenges facing young Asians in America. Chan, whose parents emigrated from China, grew up on the West coast.
“I’m born here and even I had a difficult transition,” he said. “That experience of trying to fit in has served me well now, but it was pretty difficult at the time.”
Examining Cultural Nuances
Jeffrey Ng, Psy.D., director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said that understanding the nuances of a culture can go a long way in helping students.
“There are many different world views and perspectives on mental health, and lots of variety in the way folks experience and handle emotional distress,” said Ng. “It’s very culturally specific, so it’s helpful to have counselors who have familiarly with the culture and the language.”
Chan was born in a Catholic hospital, went to Catholic grade school, and attended a Jesuit high school. He said that he liked the way Jesuits shared “good ethics” without proselytizing. It’s a quality he thinks will attract Asian students generally.
“They teach modern values without sounding like a preacher,” he said.
When Wang and Chan expressed interest in making a donation, they were given a host of options developed to help Fordham’s growing Chinese community, from interpreting services to cultural training for Fordham staff or an endowed chair in Chinese studies. But the program providing support services attracted them most.
“Asian people tend to keep their problems to themselves and this will be very helpful, because when you’re in a different country you’re even less likely to seek help,” said Chan. “I think it’s great that they’re bilingual because there is a real need.”
Chan, who describes himself as “DACA before there was DACA,” said that the United States still holds a strong attraction for many Chinese students, especially when it comes to education. He said that whether students choose to stay on in the states or whether they return home, the good that will be fostered through studying here lasts a lifetime.
“My family came here for the American Dream and that’s very much alive,” said Chan. “And whether students stay or go back home to do business in China, the more cross-pollinization we have the better it is for both countries.”