Should one return to their home country after graduation? This is a question that most international students have to face. For some, the answer is clear, but for many, it can be a source of confusion and indecision. Additionally, there are those whose perspectives change throughout the process.
How should one make such a decision? Today, three international students share their insights.
I gave up a million-dollar salary in New York
A student had always admired New York City.
Since childhood, she had traveled with her parents, witnessing the towering Empire State Building and the neon lights shimmering on the streets at night. These memories left behind fragments of sparkling beauty, and she had always wanted to go back and see it again. Fortunately, her parents supported her dream and prepared her for studying abroad by sending her to an international high school.
“In high school, A student determined her future career path and planned to study economics with the intention of working in a related field. In this scenario, the allure of New York took on another level—Wall Street, the renowned financial hub, can be considered the dream destination for most professionals in the finance and economics sectors. Who wouldn’t want to be in one of the world’s best financial centers?
A student applied and was accepted to a reputable university located in New York. She started her studies in 2019 and initially lived in the university dormitory. The pace of college courses differed from high school, and she took some time to adjust, leading to a chaotic and busy period where she had limited time to explore the city of New York. Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, and she returned to her home country, experiencing over a year of monotonous online classes.
During the time of online classes, she was confined to her home. Her parents took care of her meticulously, occasionally commenting that online classes were not bad as they felt at ease having her by their side. A student nodded in agreement, but her heart yearned for freedom.”
“When she was on the verge of going crazy with online classes, she finally got the opportunity to resume in-person courses at school. She couldn’t wait and bought a plane ticket, rented a house off-campus. On the day she returned to New York, it was already late when she left the airport. In the precious land of New York, the rented room outside campus was tiny, with just a mattress and nothing else. Despite the fatigue and the simple living conditions, A student’s mood was filled with excitement.
Having become accustomed to the academic pressure of college, she could handle it with ease. In her spare time, she almost “retaliated” by exploring New York—visiting trendy restaurants, going to both familiar and unfamiliar tourist spots, and strolling the well-lit streets even in the early hours of the morning.
During the summer break between her junior and senior years, she secured an internship at a well-known financial services company. The work was interesting, and for the first two months, she dedicated herself wholeheartedly, learning a lot and receiving recognition.
Unexpectedly, a sense of confusion suddenly struck. One evening, with a weary mind after work, she walked out of the office building amidst the bustling crowd and suddenly questioned herself, ‘Is this the life I want?'”
“Fading novelty, she gradually noticed the flaws beneath the glamour. High living costs, poor public transportation system—though she could follow the path and find a well-paying job, it required her utmost effort to establish herself in the competitive environment. Despite the abundance of dining and entertainment options around her, she didn’t have the energy to enjoy them.
Moreover, she increasingly missed her family. Her mom’s cooking was incredibly delicious, surpassing any restaurant’s flavor. Sitting around the dinner table, sharing conversations freely, brought immense happiness.
Her parents didn’t pressure her; they gave her the freedom to choose. Quietly, her internal scale tilted towards returning to her home country. Their open-mindedness made her appreciate them even more. It didn’t mean all difficulties would disappear upon her return, nor did it imply she wouldn’t have to work hard. But at least there would be no rent pressure, no helpless wandering in a foreign land. She would have the chance to be a “daddy’s girl.”
During graduation season, A student received a return offer from the company she interned with and another offer from a domestic company. Comparing the two, there was a noticeable income gap. New York remained the place of her dreams, where extravagance and prosperity mesmerized the heart.”
“But she truly experienced the daily grind before realizing it might not be the right place for her.
No place is perfect; every place is a ‘walled city.’ Living in one place for a long time reveals its flaws, while the shortcomings of that distant memory gradually fade, becoming the place she yearns for.
Will she regret it? After some time, will she venture across the seas again with a similar mindset, starting a new round of adventures? It’s not impossible, but at least for now, she wants to do what she believes is right.
She doesn’t want to be trapped by the so-called ‘success.’
I was 'abducted' back to my home country by my parents
For B, the decision to return home after graduation was not a choice but a command written in bold by their parents.
B, an only child born into an affluent family in a big city, was part of the trend where families with some wealth prefer to send their children abroad for education. It’s similar to piano or art lessons, a cog in the ‘rat race,’ but the actual significance remains uncertain.
B’s parents were no exception. Their expectations for B could be summarized as ‘go out and see the world,’ but one thing was clear from the beginning—they expected B to return home after graduating.
B themselves had no preference regarding returning home or not, but they disliked feeling controlled. Whenever their parents mentioned phrases like ‘once you come back, you will…’ B intentionally changed the subject. The more their parents emphasized it, the less inclined B felt to comply.
After going abroad, B rarely contacted their parents and spent holidays traveling with friends. It had been nearly three years since their last visit to their home country. B enjoyed the feeling of being distant from their controlling parents. Being around them, B felt like a caged bird, but once they escaped far away, they finally tasted the true essence of freedom.”
In B’s senior year, unforeseen events took place. One morning, a phone call arrived at home, delivering the news of their uncle’s passing.
Upon hearing this news, B didn’t feel overwhelming sadness. After all, their relationship with their uncle wasn’t particularly close. Hanging up the phone, B continued walking under the warm sunlight, engaging in conversations with their classmates. It wasn’t until that evening, when B found themselves alone in the silent darkness, that they belatedly experienced a sense of sorrow. How could one person simply vanish? Their uncle and their parents were all around the same age. Was their mother’s health still as robust as before?
B’s unsettling intuition soon became reality when their mother’s medical examination revealed an unfavorable result. Further investigations led to the doctor recommending prompt surgery.
B only learned about this after their mother’s surgery had concluded, through a video call. Their mother appeared weary and her demeanor had softened significantly. When B questioned why they weren’t informed earlier, their mother smiled and said, ‘What help could you have offered? Don’t worry yourself unnecessarily.’
As the possibility of an unsuccessful surgery lingered in B’s mind, a wave of fear washed over them. The once firm idea of escape wavered as they became indecisive, prompting them to seek help online. The resulting forum post sparked considerable controversy, with some advising against their return while others harshly labeled B as a ‘selfish brat,’ resorting to offensive language despite some valid points.
Indeed, B’s parents were self-centered, but they worked hard to provide a comfortable upbringing, ensuring B’s basic needs were met and granting them opportunities to explore the world beyond. In many ways, they exceeded the expectations of typical parents.
However, B’s unwillingness to return and their desire to evade responsibility could also be seen as the actions of a self-centered child.
The following morning, after a sleepless night, B put an end to the ongoing debates with a final comment: ‘Thank you, everyone. I’ve decided to go back.’
In the end, compromising with loved ones may be a form of contentment in the realm of ordinary lives.
I Aim for Maximum Returns: C's Pursuit of Success
C’s decision to study abroad carried a sense of all-or-nothing, as their family had to sell their house to afford their tuition. Fortunately, C’s determination paid off during their study abroad journey, as they secured several scholarships and took on multiple part-time jobs and internships. Managing their living expenses and even saving a small sum of money became their responsibility.
On the eve of graduation, C received a lucrative job offer in the Bay Area. After sharing the news with their family, everyone was overjoyed. Thus, C’s decision to stay in the United States was made so effortlessly. There was no emotional consideration behind this choice, nor contemplation of life’s meaning. It was purely driven by the fact that it was the ‘most valuable’ option in the present moment.”
For individuals with limited initial capital, studying abroad becomes a meticulous calculation of costs and anticipated high returns. In the current circumstances, the individual has no other choice but to proceed without much confidence, as contemplating various possibilities serves no practical purpose.
Will the future lead to a prosperous homecoming or settling down in a new place? When their family members age, will they be able to bring them closer and provide care? One step at a time, as long as they keep moving forward and upward, everything will eventually turn out fine.”
The question of whether to return home after graduation has never had a standard answer. It’s a life choice with a thousand different approaches, and each person has their own right answer. The key is to choose the option that feels right for oneself!”