For Zhizhen Tao, a community college was the perfect path.
Why did you decide to study in the U.S.A.?
- I want to reshape and recognize myself again.
- The American educational environment is more suitable for my personality.
- United States is the main research country for psychology courses.
Why did you choose this particular college or university?
My personal concerns for university are the current overall ranking of the school, the future potential ranking, whether the school’s projects are suitable for me, the school’s hardware facilities, and the reputation of the professors.
The reason why I chose Butte College [located in Northern California near the town of Chico] was that I attended a lecture by one of the Butte College teachers in my high school at that time. Later, I learned that I could complete my units in Butte College for two years and be able to transfer to UC and CSU schools. In addition, entering Butte College does not require a particularly high score of TOEFL.
For my situation at that time, Butte College must be my best and last choice because my high school grades could not allow me to directly enter a four-year university. Butte College provides me with an opportunity to start again and also gives me enough time for transition. If you want to spend time to change and improve yourself, Butte must be a good choice for you.
What do you like best about studying here?
- Professors’ strong support for students
- Many useful resources provided by the school, such as tutors in various disciplines and workshops with different fields — and all of them are free!
- Diversification in course selection
- Many extracurricular opportunities, such as volunteers and campus job
- After joining the two-year program and reaching 60 units, you can transfer to the UC system and CSU system
- Save a lot of money
- Give you a perfect place to adapt to real college life in advance
What do you miss most about home?
Food, family, and friends
How has your English improved?
When I entered Butte College, my English was very poor, and I could hardly communicate with professors normally. Fortunately, I live with my host family that completely speak English. And believe me, living in a pure English environment is definitely a good choice to practice English. In addition, I often watch English subtitles when watching some drama and also try to imitate their tone.
Once you are proficient in daily conversation, you must pay attention to the academic talk, so relationships with the professors in the school become super important. You should get familiar with the class materials in advance, and then go to the professor’s office hours with some questions in order to communicate with your professor.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
I am a person with strong adaptability, so nothing really surprises me in my daily life. But in terms of education, I think there is a big difference between China and United States. For example, professors will always encourage you even if you do poorly in the exam. Most of instructor will say what can I do for you instead of blaming you.
Secondly, professors more care about your subjective views of things rather than the so-called standard answers, which means that your thinking process is more important than your results.
Third, American universities pay more attention to the richness of your personal experience rather than your standardized scores.
What was your biggest disappointment?
Disappointment in my daily life in Chico is about the delicious and fun places that are too far away from Chico if you don’t have a car. Making more friends or [getting use of a] car when you are 18 can make your life in Chico more interesting. I am not disappointed with American educational system itself.
How have you handled:
1. Living in an English environment, such as local home stay or student apartment
2. Watch local shows or local YouTube channels (better to open English subtitles)
3. Review the classroom materials in advance, take questions to the professor’s office to ask the professor or other questions about study. If you can’t understand, you must tell the professor instead of pretend you understand.
My family supports me to come here to study. In addition, international students generally cannot work in the United States unless you have CPT or OPT. But I suggest that all students should look for jobs on campus, so that you can have one of the most important things in the United States, and that is the social security number, which can be used to find jobs or apply for credit cards in the future.
...Adjusting to a different educational system?
I believe that students from China should not worry about the quantity of assignments here, but more about your ability to think when you are in class because instructor in here often ask students to discuss in groups or even will let you answer questions randomly. Personally, I suggest that we must review the study material in advance so that you won’t be embarrassed when answering questions, but we must not be afraid about it, and it will be better to say everything you can think of instead of say nothing.
What are your activities?
Since Butte College, I have participated in various volunteer activities and some clubs. To be honest, I didn’t participate in many extracurricular experiences in Butte College, but I realized how importance of extracurricular experiences by using the lessons I learned in Butte College and after I transferred to another school, so my friends and I set up a psychology club in UC Riverside.
Then I also served in program as a peer tutor in the International Affairs Department of the school for one quarter, and later I joined the PSI CHI Psychology Organization as an honorary student. At the same time, I also became a volunteer teacher for the third-grade kids of a Chinese language school. In addition, I still feel that my background is not enough, so I plan to apply for work in the school during my current master’s program and apply for CPT after the specified time so that I can go outside to look for part-time job in the future.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the U.S.A.?
To be honest, it is difficult to make local friends in the United States. After all, we only came here to study in a community college. Unlike local Americans, who have known each other since childhood and grew up in the same region, there are still some emotional instability and cultural conflicts.
But I mainly think it depends on your personality. Congratulations if you are outgoing. It is not particularly difficult to make friends in the United States. But before making friends, I think it is necessary to know the local culture well in advance to avoid some misunderstanding.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
My career goal is to obtain the license for counseling and improve my background and experience by working in the United States for several years. After that, I hope I can return to China with my friends, so we can help the educational environment in China to develop and popularize the mental health industry of students.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying in the U.S.A.?
- Be positive.
- Choose the circle of friends carefully.
- Understand the local culture, integrate into the circle, and make high-quality friends rather than quantity.
- Balance between study and life.
- Try to enrich your background that related with your major.
- Should know how important about your relationship with professors.
- Think about the general plan for the future in advance.
- Ask friends with relevant experience before doing anything uncertain (such as buying a car, choosing an apartment, choosing courses, course questions, and job planning).
- Contact your family regularly.
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