From China to NDSU

The Asian girl with long blue hair has a slight accent.

“You can call me ‘Yining.’ You know, like the baseball word,” she said.

We had been going around the circle and introducing ourselves in a group when she gave her eccentric introduction.

Months later during conversation, she admitted she had only recently learned that baseball term. Yining said she has found it very useful in clarifying the pronunciation to English speakers.

While initially studying statistics, Yining decided to switch and is now in her third year in one of NDSU’s most prestigious departments: architecture.

She has a contagious positive personality and is a very outgoing Chinese international student who isn’t afraid of holding a conversation with anyone, regardless of where they’re from.

All of her family is in China, and when I expressed my admiration for her adventure and spontaneity, she simply smiled and nodded.

“I feel like I’m doing everything positive here, something that I don’t think would happen in China. America has made me confident and brave,” Yining said.

Like most students who study abroad, however, she was met with some initial difficulties and unique culture shock.

When she first arrived at North Dakota State during the 2013 spring semester alone and only 17 years of age, she recalled the language barrier to be the most difficult part of her transition.

Despite passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam suggesting her English was adequate enough to attend and learn in an American university, she remembers being confused and jet lagged during the three days of her international orientation, unable to understand most of what was presented.

Moreover, when arriving in January, she was not prepared for the Fargo weather and immediately had to find the means to acquire winter clothing, a very stressful process when limited with a language barrier.

Her first experiences in America and NDSU weren’t all negative, however.

She recalls a time during her first few weeks at NDSU when a student in the bathroom complimented her shoes while waiting in line.

She was in shock that someone would randomly say something nice, that she forgot to thank her. “That is not common in China,” she laughs, “People are usually shy and keep to themselves.”

In America, Yining finds freedom.

Over the past couple of years, she has developed a love for dancing in any form from salsa to hip-hop, something that can more easily be practiced in America than in China.

When asked to give advice to incoming international students, she immediately responded, “Be open. People tend to only associate with their own cultural group, which is easier in the beginning, but regrettable in the end.”

Being alone on the other side of the world and trying to adapt to a new environment is a very vulnerable position to be in.

Readers, I challenge you to communicate and be mutually vulnerable with international and multicultural students and hear their unique stories.

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