All and Nothing

By Size Li, Pittsburgh Pathways Student

April 2020

“Size wrote an essay that won the Second Prize in the English Language Program Writing Contest. The students in the program were encouraged to submit a writing that will bring joy and happiness to the readers. They all wrote theirs in a very short period of time and did a wonderful job!”

“Those who don’t have time for entertainment, their time will be spent on getting sick.”

—— John Wanamaker

My name is Size, so most people just call me [saɪz]. Actually, it is pronounced more like [si:zə], but I will not ask people to call me “Caesar” since I am neither an emperor nor an ape. As an international student, improving my English level is my main task, and expanding vocabulary is the most important part of it. However, many words look very similar: open the book: Contact; close the book: Contract? Contrast? Or Context?; open the book again: Oh, it is Contact, I got it. But during the exam: I am sure it is Contest. After I entered the US, I found it was easier than I thought: I only needed to take a flight and a nap; when I woke up, I had already arrived in the US. So what is the purpose to build a wall on the border of the country? I come from China; I am sure it is useless because nobody knows about the wall better than I do.

I made many friends on campus. They come from different countries, and they taught me many things: not every Japanese is bashful, not every Russian likes to drink, and not every Muslim is violent. My adviser also gave me many good proposals. She recommended me take the American politics class, which helped me to learn a lot: the core of politics and culture in America, the conflicts among different social classes, and the first “F” in my life. I used to think politics was easy because in China we only needed to remember: “Communist Party is the best.” However, I changed my mind after attending the American policy class. These are my Q&A in class:

Q: What is the First Amendment?

A: Is it the reason why people can discriminate against others online?

Q: What is the Second Amendment?

A: Is it the reason why people do not discriminate against others in reality?

I thought I answered pretty well, but unfortunately, the instructor did not think so.

There are many things that have happened since the COVID-19 has spread around the world: China was affected first, Britain adopted the appeasement policy, Germany plundered the surrounding countries, Japan postponed the Olympics and America is having an economic depression after World War II. Moreover, people need to make their choices: civil rights, or civil lives, that is the question. Whether it is nobler: in the mind to suffer the loneliness and emptiness of quarantine or to go out against a lockdown order? For now, both options are similar: go to a mental hospital or an ICU.

Despite most countries were chaotic right now, most universities are reliable because knowledge has no borders. 190 universities around the world have opened many distinctive and interesting courses free for people to study online. For example, MIT introduced Engineering the Space Shuttle, Keio University provided Exploring Japanese Avant-garde Art Through Butoh Dance, and Tsinghua University gave us a big present: Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New era. I am tired of socialism or Chinese characteristics, but if Harvard University opened a course named Trump’s Experience on Racism with American Characteristics, I would like to attend.

Now, I have a very nice family. Every time I go back to China, they will welcome me and say: “We miss you so much, sweetheart!” Moreover, when I return to America, my family will also “bless” me: “Get away and never come back you little buster!” At the beginning of the epidemic, they told me they were fine and did not worry about them. When the US began to have cases, they comforted me and sent me many supplies. After my air ticket was canceled and the situation in the US became worse, they did not say anything but shared with me this article: How to Arrange a Funeral in the US. How wonderful family they are!

In the end, what can you get from my writing? Nothing, indistinct complaints, experiences of an international student, criticisms of reality, or differences in the world. It does not matter right or wrong because there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes. I just wrote all the things I wanted, and I hope they can bring you a little bit of entertainment under this difficult time.

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