Trump is Threatening International Educators Like Me

Teaching internationally is now threatened by the USA’s diplomacy.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

The routine is ingrained at this point.

I wake up to see a barrage of Wechat notifications — messages from my friends and coworkers. I blearily check my groupchats. What did he do this time? I wonder. Trade war? Banning students? Removing embassies?

I work abroad. Trump’s actions make it difficult.

I’m a US citizen working for a Beijing-based educational consulting company, specializing in writing tutoring and applications to US colleges. Due to travel restrictions, I’m based in Iceland now, working remotely with my Chinese students.

Virtual work has its difficulties. I never thought international diplomacy would be one of them.

In July, ICE attempted to deport international students from campus — a terrifying move that threatens millions of individuals, many of them former students or classmates of mine.

In August, he is threatening to ban Wechat, Tiktok, and Tencent through an executive order.

The wording of this order is exceptionally vague. It prohibits, “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”. Does this include Chinese people on US soil? US citizens living abroad?

The wording is such a mess that Sheelah Kolhatkar of the New Yorker called it “incoherent.” His arguments for a ban are inconsistent and the executive order’s language doesn’t seem to even know its own purpose. If it eventually passes, it may be struck down by courts rather quickly, like his incompetently worded travel ban.

But that’s just legal jargon. To an educator like me, the announcement is scary. Minutes after this was announced, my work colleagues and I went in a flurry of anxious messages on WeChat. Does this include us? Our students? How will we work together now? Is this real?

Tensions are high. Embassies have been shut down. Distrust is in the air. And every day, it creeps into the work that I, as an international educator, do.

Virtual work has its difficulties. I never thought international diplomacy would be one of them.

Many people don’t know much about Wechat, or don’t actually understand its importance. Many people believe it to be a Chinese version of Facebook. That’s half-right, it is social media, but it’s so much more. It’s a texting platform, with phone and desktop versions, with an insane amount of add-ons. It’s not just Facebook. It’s Facebook and Gmail and Uber and Instagram and Apple pay all rolled into one.

I use Wechat to keep up with friends, ex-pat, and Chinese alike, who I’ve met abroad. I use it to share manage my coworkers. I use it to tutor my students.

His policies make day-to-day work more anxious

Every week, another student comes to me with concerns about moving to the US to study. What is WeChat is banned — their only communication with family? What if they get stuck in the USA, unable to visit home? What if they get deported?

I try to reassure them, but inside, I’m just as scared of what my President will do next. His moves are unpredictable. With the stroke of a pen, Trump could destroy both my job and my students’ futures.

There are solutions. I’m now helping every single one of my students apply for non-USA English-speaking universities. Most are in the UK, but some in Canada and Australia as well.

It’s a new form of a “back-up school”. Most students have back-up schools in case their dream school rejects them. Now, my students have back-up schools in case their dream country deports them.

This pivot solidifies the USA’s international descent. We’re no longer the ideal of high education.

My industry is built on the premise of the international exchange of ideas. When the Trump administration threatens that concept, they threaten every single person involved in that field: counselors, ambassadors, teachers, students, families, and more.

When I signed up to educate students after college graduation, I never expected international politics to determine the future of my industry.

On November 1st, I will stay up all night, helping my students with every problem with the Common Application and double-checking their work. I’ll work hard to make sure they have the best chance of acceptance to an American college.

Two days later, on November 3rd, I’ll vote to make sure those acceptance letters don’t evaporate overnight.

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A queer, herbivorous, leftist Viking. I write about society, justice, and popular media. UChicago grad. Based in Iceland.

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