Lifan Zhou from China: Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University

Lifan Zhou from China: Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University

Why did you decide to study in the USA?

I spent my first year of college life in my hometown, so I was classified as a transfer student when I arrived at Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech). I decided to change my learning environment by going out to explore the world. 

Why did you choose Michigan Technological University?

I chose the English Language Institute (ELI) at Michigan Tech to enhance my English and help me transfer smoothly to American academic life. What attracted me to Michigan Tech is the safe environment and strong engineering background. In fact, Michigan Tech is often ranked as the safest campus in the U.S. Even though the winter is extremely cold and long, people here are friendly and the academic disciplines are well-developed. As a student, you also get to ski for free, which helps you enjoy the winter.

Quite often, Chinese students are hesitant about taking English as a Second Language classes at American universities.  But taking these classes helped me be more successful in my major classes and participate in campus activities.

What do you like best?

The courses that the ELI program offered are helpful. Writing class helped me cite sources correctly and avoid plagiarism. Listening/Speaking class helped me to prepare presentations and speak professionally in front of groups. Reading class helped me to capture key information quickly in research articles and trained me to be more concentrated while reading.

What do you miss most?

I would say my family. Like many Chinese students, I am the only child in my family.  Due to the long distance and weather limitations, I can only go home once per year.

What was your biggest surprise?

Before I went to USA, I had never taken care myself. But now after four years of living alone in the Upper Peninsula [Michigan], I have become a very independent and self-disciplined person.

... your biggest disappointment?

So far, nothing has really disappointed me.

How have you handled:

... language differences?

The easiest way is to speak more and write more. For instance, I worked at a cafe on campus for two years, which helped me to communicate a lot with different customers and colleagues. Also, during my senior year, I became the team leader for our senior design project. I feel that the more English I speak/write, the more confident I am. 

... finances?

My parents provided me with full tuition and living expenses.

... adjusting to a different educational system?

To adjust to a different educational system, I was patient and observed how American students interacted with professors and peers. From these observations, I started to feel more comfortable.

What are your activities?

I participated in hiking, which was sponsored by the ELI program. I did not have much time to participate in extracurricular activities outside of my major.

How easy or difficult was making friends?

Not very difficult. American people are easy going, and most of them are friendly and helpful. Students at my university are nice to talk to. Through studying and working, I made several American friends. 

How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country? 

My career goal is to obtain a full-time job as a process engineer in China. Actually, I decided my career goal after I finished my undergraduate studies. I had an internship last summer to actually work in a refinery and have a real chemical engineering job. I am happy with this career decision. In China, industry is developing rapidly and the need for engineers is growing. I have a multi-faceted educational background now, which helps me be a more competitive job applicant. 

What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?

Be prepared, be brave, and be yourself.

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