Photo: UNR international student Yu Tzu Chu studying in the library
Time flies, it is almost the end of spring semester and it's time for me to say goodbye. In the past four months, I have been through a really unimaginable and fantastic journey at UNR [University of Nevada, Reno]. In the beginning I was so curious and excited about everything, I wanted to experience as much as I can in my limited time in the United States. I did, in fact it was full of surprises and unexpected events in my daily adventures. However, they were so much different from my thoughts. After all, I can only know my life by going through it personally.
Since the semester started, lectures, readings, assignments and quizzes bombarded me every day. I had a passion for every course I enrolled in and made an effort to follow up the progress in class but I had a hard time as well. The way of teaching here is one of the reasons. The interaction and discussion between professor and students here is totally different from my college experiences. It is a bidirectional process of learning instead of only lectures from the authority. The classroom is an open space and welcomes different opinions and comments. I did not have related experiences which I could feel free to express or ideas that came to mind during class. Even worse, I am not used to discussing with professors after class. So the questions I had just faded away as time went by. Also, the learning mode I adopted before does not work here. I tried to be an active learner and involved in the class discussion but it is really challenging. In addition, the language barrier made me less confident to speak and communicate with others. Most of the time I needed to double check the content I heard and then think about it before figuring out my own opinion, but it takes me longer time and I always miss the following issues.
Although it is tough, I still enjoy the self-direction learning method and felt accomplished sometimes. Once I had completed a reflection in a class on “France and its culture,” which was about an assigned documentary talking about an impossible dream accomplished by a French man. The story was truly inspiring because it reminded me that I should find my desired dream, follow it and never give up. I did not expect that the professor would invite me to read my composition and share it with classmates. I was surprised and honored to read it in front of others since it was definitely an approval and encouragement in my exchange period.
As the only international student in the class “Topics in Writing," I faced the difficulties cooperating and communicating with my group mates. I was completely stressed-out and could not figure out what I can do to make it better. I took an action which I have never done before, which was talking to my professor in person. I was embarrassed to talk about my negative feeling with a professor but the way he acted and his feedback made me relieved. I was impressed that my professor cared about a student’s feelings and spent time discussing the problem with me. We explored the problems together, he even asked me to give him some advice which he could work better with international students next time. It was nothing about complaints, [it was about] solving the problem in an efficient way. The discussion did help me to go through the toughest time and motivated me to work better in the following project.
I am sure the life here is a worthy adventure which changed the way I think and I act. After leaving my comfort zone, I am forced to be independent and overcome those barriers in a short time. The process of growing up is not a piece of cake, it is always accompanied by challenges. However, I undergo them step by step and have learned from situations that frustrated me. Looking back on my life at UNR, I started as an extremely excited freshman, then the challenges made me feel depressed, but once I surmount them I became stronger and was ready to graduate. Although changes are risky and sometimes uncomfortable, I would like to welcome my differences and keep challenging myself in the future.
Yu Tzu Chu is from Taiwan and is currently studying at the University of Nevada, Reno.