Qian Gao Shares the Benefits of the International Student Program and Language Academy at Los Angeles City College

Qian Gao Shares the Benefits of the International Student Program and Language Academy at Los Angeles City College

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My name is Qian Gao, and I am an international student from China. I went to Mt. San Antonio College when I first arrived in the U.S., and then I transferred to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to major in linguistics. Currently, I am in my second year in the master of education in educational counseling program at the University of Southern California (USC), and I am graduating in May. I am passionate and eager to provide essential support to diverse students so that they have an equal opportunity and resources in pursuing their higher education. I was inspired by my college mentor, who really helped me a lot in my transfer process and also my student life in both academic and social way. I would love to give back to the community and help students to reach their full potential.

Studying abroad is a brand new experience for all students. I am an international student studying in the master of education in educational counseling program at USC. My journey started without any language preparation. After graduating from high school in China, I had a half-year gap to prepare to complete my TOEFL exams and apply to study in the United States. I chose to study at a community college in California to gain a better understanding of the U.S. educational system and to better prepare myself academically. I spent three years in community college and in this completely new environment and school system before applying to and being accepted to UCLA as a linguistics major. 

After graduating from UCLA, most of my high school friends back in China were already in their workplace for almost 2 years, which made me feel like I was far behind in the game of life. My friends already had amazing jobs, or they already had gotten married or had babies. I was really overwhelmed and anxious at that time because I was still not sure about what my own goals were and what I am passionate about. I started to question myself for my decision. Did I choose the right path? What are others doing right that I am not? All these questions overpowered me. A motivational speaker, Jay Shetter, once said “Everything in life happens according to our time and our clock. If you are able to create meaningful and  purposeful lives for yourself, and learn how to use your own experiences to impact others, that is what we really want to pursue in our life.” My parents also told me that it is okay to take a break if you really don't know what you  want to do in the future, just take some time and find your passion. 

After graduating from UCLA and with this advice, I decided to have a gap year and apply for optional practical training (OPT). During that time I found a job as a Mandarin teacher working with children ages 2-7. I really loved working with children, and this gap year allowed me time to better understand myself and reflect on my goals. I realized I am passionate about supporting students to reach their full potential. Reflecting on my past experiences, I also realized that I enjoyed helping my fellow international students with their academic planning. Additionally, I realized that language barriers had negatively affected my college life and also other international students' academic and social life as well. I had also been volunteering at Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, which aims to organize tenants in Chinatown who face unfair and illegal action from landlords and to speak up against developments and landlord harassment. All of these experiences really impacted me to support marginalized people to pursue equity and equality, help people improve their lives, and reconsider the importance of language skills. Therefore, I realized that I have a heart for helping and love to see the spark that happens when others find their place. 

These experiences led me to apply to and be accepted into the master’s in educational counseling program at USC. Being in this program reconfirms my passion to help marginalized generations to pursue equity and equality in higher education and guide them to achieve their goals. Through my current internship at Los Angeles City College’s International Student Program and Language Academy I have the opportunity to work with students to improve their language skills, make connections with other students, and find their sense of belonging on campus. This really brought into my mind the significance of language. Learning language skills will build  students’ confidence, help them better pursue their higher education, and also help acclimate them into a new environment. I believe a language academy located on a college campus is the best way to improve students' language skills and support students as they adjust academically to a college environment. Learning that Los Angeles City College has its language academy on campus, I know that this would have been a valuable resource for me prior to starting my academic journey at a U.S. college. 

I wanted to share this experience because I believe most students might find themselves in a similar situation, that they think they are lagging behind other students or their friends in the game of life. If I can help people find their career goals that they are really passionate about, I would be so happy that I can be part of encouraging them to pursue, embrace, and find a passion that not only changes the way they think, but the way the world thinks. I want to share this with all of you that don't let anyone rush you with their timelines. Everything happens at its own pace and has its own time and clock, and so do you.