Yini Chen from China: Studying in the Master’s Organizational Leadership Program at Gonzaga University
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I always wanted to have an experience of studying abroad. The university program in China that I was at was a pathway program, which provided lots of study abroad opportunities. We could choose to go to USA, UK, Australia and some other countries to study after graduation. I was in a relationship with a guy who was living in America, so I picked America to be close to him. I preferred America because I got to know that American educational system is better than other countries', which is reflected in its new and successful educational ideas and its good fame.
Why did you choose Gonzaga University?
Gonzaga is in Spokane, Washington, which is not a big city, so the living expenses here are much lower than other big cities. Moreover, Gonzaga is not as famous as some other American universities in China, so there are less Chinese students here, which is good for me to learn English because I have more opportunities to use English than use Chinese. Gonzaga's ESL program is pretty famous on the west coast.
What do you like best?
I like my university better than a lot of other state universities because Gonzaga University is a pretty small university, so faculty members here give more attention and help to each student.
What do you miss most?
Chinese food, my family, friends and puppy.
What was your biggest surprise?
About U.S. life, I was surprised by American people's independence. In supermarkets, they have self-service checkout machines. At car wash places, people need to self-clean cars' inside by paying the vacuum. Independence is one of the important values in U.S. I was also surprised by American society's high sense of integrity. When living here, I worry less that people would steal my stuff or credit cards. Although these things still happen sometimes, the situation in America is better than in China.
The thing that I love most about American education is that it is not exam-oriented. Exams do not occupy big parts of students' grades or study time. Professors lay more emphasis on students' participation and discussion in the class.
... your biggest disappointment?
My disappointment is mainly about U.S. life. For example, I don't like some America foods and some food, such as frozen, instant or fried food, are very unhealthy. Eating out is unbelievable expensive. I am also disappointed with American city lives because most of the cities in America are not bustling. I also found that American people know less about the world.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
I would say the only way to handle the language differences is to improve personal English ability. I tried to catch any opportunities that I could to practice my English. For example, I was not afraid to participate in discussion at class. At home, I liked to watch American films or TV dramas without Chinese subtitles. When chatting with friends by sending text messages, I tended to send them in English. Making American friends and joining activities, which need you to use English, were helpful too.
I don't have serious financial problems, but my expensive international student's tuition and living expenses give my parents some economic burden. Furthermore, the exchange rate between Chinese Yuan and American dollar makes me spend more money in U.S. than in China.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
China and America have two very different educational systems. The biggest difference that I think is that American educational system pays more attention to the critical thinking. Chinese educational system does not provide students a lot of opportunities to do critical thinking. Therefore, to me, adjusting to American educational system means adjusting to the critical thinking. In American classrooms, teachers never want students to find right answers that they look forward to hearing, but they appreciate different perspectives, questions, and any thoughts, which don't have to be the "right" answer.
What are your activities?
I am a member of Gonzaga International Students Union. I go to school gym to go jogging and workout every week. There is an international students' activity on campus called conversation circle, which used to go to when I was in the ESL program. When I graduated from the ESL, I kept going as a volunteer to help international students practice speaking English, while I also could practice my English there. I like to go to some activities and trips that the international students' center of Gonzaga sponsor, which are cheap and fun, such as skiing, camping, hiking, bowling and so on.
How easy or difficult was making friends?
For me, having friends is a very important piece of my life, so I like making friends no matter where I am. American people are very nice and kind. They like to associate with people from different countries and love to know different cultures, which let me make friends with them every easy. It's also easy to make friends with people who come from my country. When we all live far away from our homeland in America where people speak English rather than Mandarin, people eat potato and breads rather than rice, having friends who are from the same country makes us feel intimate. We help each other and face difficulties together.
How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
My career goal is to work in a big international company no matter where I work. In China, people who have study abroad experience are more likely to be hired by overseas-funded enterprise. In my hometown, Shanghai, the situation of employment is competitive. If I don't have study abroad experience or foreign degree, it will be difficult for me to be hired and work in those companies.
Moreover, I have been always appreciated American education ideas, methods and thinking that I am more suitable to be educated in America rather than in China. I also believe that the experience of studying in U.S. will help me find a good job in the future.
What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?
I would suggest that they could go to some small colleges, which are regionally famous if their goals of studying in U.S. are learning English and American cultures. Having a diploma from an American university, which is famous in China, probably can help them find a good job in China. But a lot of universities that are well known in China are full of Chinese students, which is not helpful for students who want to improve their English quickly.
Second, I would suggest that they apply schools by themselves instead of through intermediary agents whom are paid for helping students write personal statements and apply universities. From my experience, those agents are not very helpful. They just take your money, apply to some universities that they have contract relationships with and write machine-made personal statements for you which make you less special to those universities that you want to apply. Applying American universities on your own has lots of advantages. You can have opportunities to communicate with admissions teachers to let them know you and your specialties. You don't have to worry about that your imperfect English ability would probably leave a bad impression on them. Even if the email that you send to a teacher is full of grammar mistakes and awkward sentences, I think the teacher can still understand your meaning. Moreover, the content that you write by your own must be sincerer than agents' versions, which can better show your personal characteristics and leave deep impression on those teachers.