University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Major: Global Studies
Hometown: Beijing, China
Why did you come to the U.S.?
I didn’t like the examination-oriented education of the general high school in China. I wanted a fresh start and a new environment to study, so after discussing my future with my parents, I switched to an international high school to prepare for studying abroad.
How did you choose UIUC?
I chose UIUC because of its computer science program. I was always interested in computer games, and I wish to start a game-development company. So I was trying to get into a school with a great somputer science program.
How did you choose your major?
I came as a freshmen with an undeclared major. At first, I tried to declare my major as computer science, but I didn’t do well at chemistry, which is one of the required courses. … Then I found my interest in Global Studies. The curriculum of this program looks logical to me. We have to choose a country to start, and we can pick which aspect of that country we want to learn about. Then we have to learn the language and study abroad in the country for a semester. We also have to take academic courses about culture studies.
Which country are you studying?
I chose Japan, because I’m very interested in Japanese culture and I have learned basic Japanese since I was a child. I will stay there for the next semester to study their culture and language.
Which is your favorite spot at UIUC?
I actually like the Chinese restaurant near my campus. I like the food there so much that I asked the owners if they needed any help and they offered me a part-time job. I come from Beijing, the northern part of China, and the owners of this restaurant also come from northern China. Therefore, I feel like being home again every time I go there.
Which other parts of the country have you visited?
I have been to New York for a holiday, but I found living in New York is too expensive to me. I also traveled to Kentucky, New Jersey, Chicago and Indianapolis.
What do you like the most about the U.S.?
I like that I can arrange my own time any way I want, but the freedom also overwhelmed me in the beginning. Back in high school, I didn’t need to plan my days, because it’s all about going to classes, doing homework and taking exams. But as an undergraduate student, I had to learn how to plan my time well. Suddenly, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do because I didn’t know anything about time management. After a while, I learned how to make plans and to exert self-discipline with regard to time.
My school (health) insurance plan does not cover dental care. I can understand that the school does not have the responsibility to cover all the costs for students, but dental bills can add a lot of burden. I had to bear my toothache and wait to go back to China during the break.
How do you feel about the security on campus?
I lived in the school dorm my freshman year because it is mandatory. When I lived on campus, I saw the police patrol when I studied late at night or early in the morning, so I felt very safe. After I moved out, I still felt safe because I have never seen any violence or attacks near my apartment. I am often told to stay alert of strangers and dangerous neighborhoods, but I believe that not all people are bad.
There were some tragedies that happened near campus, like the disappearance of (visiting scholar) Yingying Zhang last year and a shooting at a local bar in 2016. When I was helping to search for Yingying Zhang, I went to some unfamiliar neighborhoods to spread posters and photos. I was afraid that those neighborhoods might be dangerous. However, a lot of people gathered to read the posters and asked me for extras to bring home. A lot of them said they would keep an eye on this. I was very moved by them, so I think we could misjudge strangers sometimes.
What’s your view on the current political environment in the U.S.?
I don’t worry too much about the politics, because my school life isn’t affected by politics too much. However, I think I will apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation. I am looking for jobs related to cross-culture and international development. At the same time, I am also studying for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and am going to apply for graduate schools. I will certainly follow all the (news) updates on any modifications related to my (international student) status in the future.
— Interviewed by Yue Guan