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International student explains struggles, opportunities in different country

Danielle Foster | The Feather Online

Xiyuan Zhao (Serena), ’20, shares her experience in America and how the opportunities have benefited her.

As an international student from Shenzhen, China, I absorbed a completely different foreign culture and learned a lot from it. I first arrived in the United States three years ago and experienced a warm welcome from many Americans. Today I am a junior at Fresno Christian and have tried my best to get involved with the school.

Under the effort of my parents, I got to have the opportunity to study abroad. This long process was not as frightening as I thought it would be once I realized how much it enriched my daily life. Often times I still enjoy my time here in the United States.

Thanks to the encouragement from my host family, I tried many new things such as playing soccer in my freshman year and being a part of the tennis team. Without the acceptance of my host family and my peers, I wouldn’t have the courage to begin to reach out and practice my English.

In school since elementary, we had to participate in English class in China. The teacher gave us a textbook which included daily conversations, articles, and words that students needed to memorize. In the same sense, learning English is like learning Spanish that local students have to select as a second language in the United States.

In addition, English appears as one of the six major classes in school, especially for the high school entrance examination. It is not the hardest subject, but sometimes difficult to understand due to the lack of the ‘real’ English environment.

Coming from a northern city of China, my parents overcame the burden for their careers and provide the family with a better future. They both work for the China Merchants group, which is a large state-owned enterprise company that focuses on the three core industries of transportation, finance and real estate businesses.

Shenzhen is one of the three national financial centers, located in the Southeast part of China, in Guangdong province. It is also the first special economic zone established by China, which drew lots of migrating population, seeking for opportunities and jobs.

Because of its economic development, the city is not considered to be a city that has its own culture like Beijing, but exists as the central business district (CBD). The people and food come from all over the world.

Fresno Christian is the school intermediary a Chinese agent recommended for me. Fresno is not in a big city where I would not control myself to play and spend money on everything. Another reason I chose FCS is the ratio of students to teachers. They are balanced in order for teachers to put attention on every student. There is a connection between staffs and students that I cannot experience with thousands of students in my high school in China. Most of all, people in the school are nice;  they don’t judge me for a different background.

Greg Stobbe | The Feather Online

Zhao, left, teaches other students at FCS how to write in Chinese during the school’s Chinese New Year event, Feb. 5.

The schools in the United States, in my opinion, are much more relaxed compared to China. In the U.S., students do not do homework till midnight, no class schedule from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Instead, there are more after-school activities and leisure time for me to celebrate life.

The difficulty for me today, however, is sometimes I lose some motivation for study because there is too much free time. Since I got used to the Chinese traditional learning method, I need more pressure to push me forward.

Whenever I feel bored or frustrated, family will arise in my head. The Chinese food that my mom cooked is especially the thing I miss the most.

The AmeriStudent program I am a part of is a link between my agent in China and America. AmeriStudent has provided me with a safe and unique homestay in order for me to have a better understanding of the American culture. Most of the students in FCS have a cooperative relationship with them, and it is a good educational experience for both sides to learn.

The unforgettable journey in the United States is still a chapter book that will keep writing. I am more than blessed to have such a great chance to be an international student and study at FCS. This extraordinary life experience will also stimulate the meaning and direction of my life as I continue to explore.

To learn more about the foreign exchange students at Fresno Christian, read Campus students celebrate Chinese New Year, Feb. 5. You can also contact Brooke Stobbe, the International Program Coordinator via email.

For more articles read Molecular biologist Dr. John Medina lectures at SJV Town Hall and EDITORIAL: Are we losing the art of listening?

Serena Zhao can be reached via email.

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