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chelsea & lening


Chelsea and Lening are a queer Chinese couple currently studying in North Carolina. They tell us about their experience as international students in America and share more on their struggles with sexuality. 

Samantha: Okay, so, I guess you guys mentioned that you're international students, right? So why don't you just tell us what it's been like here, I guess. 


Chelsea: I've been actually in the U.S. for... 6 years? 5, 6 years? So we actually graduated last year from Duke University. So, we actually—[Lening] just got a job like, last month, and I've been working for a year, so, yeah. 


Serena: That's awesome. 


Chelsea: As for identity, I don't know. I think it's very different like, for example, we were in Durham, like North Carolina for our school, right? And we moved to New Jersey last year, for a year. And we feel like it's been very different because I think New Jersey has more diversity. And especially we are gay, we are a couple. 


Serena: Did you find it difficult to connect with like, your Chinese culture especially when you were at Duke?


Chelsea: Actually in our program, we have like, half of our students are international students. Yeah. (to Lening) You can answer that question. 


Lening: But I did find that... I found it hard to connect to people when I was working, so when I was working all my colleagues were like, Americans. So, they did not—I tried to tell them what is like, the traditional holidays in Chinese, so I tried to bring my culture to them, so that's just a little bit. I feel disconnected, especially because I found someone I am really close to, I feel I have found a little bit of distance from my colleagues sometimes. 


Samantha: And I have another question, and it's totally fine if you don't feel comfortable answering. But I know I think especially for people, for the intersection of both a Chinese and gay identity, that's something that's rarely seen. Not just in the media, but because Chinese culture almost has some traditionalist aspect that doesn't really support that. Have you had any encounters with that, and do you feel comfortable talking about it? 


Chelsea: I think we feel much more comfortable in the U.S. than in China. I mean, my mom knows, but um... My whole family doesn't really support me, so I still, you know, I didn't tell my mom about my relationship right now. But I guess for example, since we are working right now and our co-workers know our identity, and especially because I think current company, is like... 


Lening: It's like a healthcare company, and they are doing fertility management, so a lot of my colleagues are gay or even transgender. So I feel very comfortable working there. 


Serena: That's super cool. 


Chelsea: Yeah, I think it's definitely different. I think the U.S. is definitely much more open than China. 


Lening: Yeah, and we are thinking of moving to New York City maybe next year, so we feel like more like, more freedom walking down the street in New York as well. 


Samantha: Oh, wow, that is so cool. And then so obviously, now that you guys have decided to start making this life in America, what was the moment that made you realize you want to stay here, rather than you know, going back like I know a lot of international students do? 


Lening: Actually, I haven't decided to stay here forever. Probably we will go back to China in like, 5 years, or yeah. Because our family are still in China. We haven't made that decision yet. 


Chelsea: Yeah. You know, I definitely miss China, but um, I think working in the U.S. is maybe better than in China, at least from my experience. And you know, the salary is better, your work life balance, everything else. So I guess we will probably spend a couple more years in the U.S. and see in a couple years. 


Samantha: Okay, just one last question. So when you first came here, was there ever a struggle to adapt where you felt like you didn't fit in or you felt like people weren't super accepting of your culture?


Chelsea: Yeah, I guess that's definitely something that every international experiences. I actually went to high school in Los Angeles, and um... we are like, fresh off the boat, do you know that word? So um... I guess I am just pretty chill, I don't really care what others think about me. But I don't think I really struggled when I first came here, because my family and everyone else is really supporting me, and I made a lot of friends here. 


Lening: Yeah, I totally agree. Friends helps a lot with adjustment. 


Chelsea: Especially because there are so many international students in the U.S. I guess because we are in a Master's program, that's why our program has a lot of international students. 

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