FISH Feature 4: “Be confident about where you come from.”
FISH Features provide international students with the opportunity to share their study abroad experience. Presented in question & answer format, the Features provide readers with important insights and actionable advice.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, I am Fan Yang, also known as Katherine Young. I am an international student from Shanghai, China. And this is my second year pursuing my MBA in Accounting degree. Before I came to the United States, I used to work part-time for China Joy, and I was also in several cosmetics commercials before I came here to study. I like cooking in my spare time, and I am also a huge fan of hip-pop, Jamaican-pop music, and I love Rihanna.
Why did you want to study in the United States?
It started from my dad, who used to be a visiting scholar in Chico State University in California. I visited him during his stay, and I really liked how peaceful and slow-paced Chico was. People there were really nice and involving. And I also like the “people are free to be who they are” spirit from American TV shows I’ve watched.
What were you most looking forward to in the United States?
Even though China is pretty international now; I grew up with pretty much only Chinese around, and I wanted to go abroad to see different sides of the world, see how other people think, and the United States, which is a country of immigrants from all around the world, is no doubt a perfect choice.
Were you excited about anything specifically?
That I can really have the chance to use English that I’ve been studying from high school instead of only practicing after TV shows.
What has been the most different thing you have learned?
To maintain eye-contact in conversations. Because in my culture, younger people are taught to avoid too much eye-contact with seniors to show respect. However, in the US, it is not polite to do so. Funny thing is, after I had been practicing maintaining eye-contact with people for one year, when I reunited with my family this summer, they were surprised and asked me several times why I was staring at them.
What’s your favorite food since you’ve been here?
I like healthy food, beef, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, bread, etc. I like them better when they taste better that’s why I prefer them in burgers and fries.
What’s the most challenging aspect of studying in the United States?
Trying to catch up with professors in the class definitely. One thing is that some professors can talk really fast and it is hard for me to follow. Good thing I found that if I read the related materials before class, I will slowly be able to catch up. The harder thing is, there can also be several accents in class. I felt frustrated at first until my advisor told me that for a student, I only need to try to understand one accent. For those professors, they have to cope with everyone’s accents.
What has been the best part of studying in the United States?
That I am encouraged to speak out whatever I think in the class, and also that I get to know what people from other cultures think. People here are really tolerant with different cultures and are understanding even when we make some grammatical mistakes when we talk.
Did you find it easy or difficult to make friends with Americans?
As far as I know, it is easier for international undergrads to make friends with locals because they will stay longer in the United States, and they can take part in a lot of student organizations, which will allow them to be involved with people who have the same interests. For us graduate students, especially in my MBA classes, I think there can be more international students than local students. It is not hard to make international friends, but I’m not so sure if it is easy or difficult to make friends with Americans simply by the percentage in the classes. Good thing there are several programs on campus trying to connect international students with local students and everyone is encouraged to participate.
What was your favorite place to visit in America?
I really like San Francisco, people there are so enthusiastic and so energetic. Now I grow to like NYC as well because the life pace is really quick, and it reminds me of home — Shanghai. I am a short person, but I enjoy walking fast.
What was your favorite class?
My favorite class, so far, is the first class I had since I came here: Analytical Methods. My professor is really passionate in the class, and can really motivate students. He also talks pretty quick in the class, but he is really patient and helpful if you let him know that there is anything you are confused with.
Were there any classes you found to be challenging?
There is one class. It was an online class. I understand and appreciate that the school allows us to take online classes, considering a big portion of the business graduate students have full-time jobs besides school, thus they have a busier schedule, so online classes will give them the biggest flexibility. But, for students like me who don’t work full time, I could hardly make in-time communication with the professor, and I didn’t get timely responses about the work I had done to apply for the next work I was about to do. But it varies with people I suppose.
How were you involved socially in America?
I went to some parties with American friends and we hung out every once a while. I also joined ISA — International Students Association, which exposed me to more people from everywhere.
Did you ever experience culture shock?
Yes, the eye contact and also it is very hard for me to order decently in the restaurants, considering my vocabulary doesn’t even allow me to understand every ingredient in the descriptions.
What have you learned about being a business person in the United States?
Being in the United States has given me the opportunity to combine the differences of culture in doing business.
Do you feel your international student experience thus far has been a success?
People have different standards for “success,” I can only say that I reached the goals I set for myself so far: I am doing well academically, and I have friends from different backgrounds, I am living a much healthier lifestyle this semester.
Do you have a message to other international students; what would you tell them?
The most important thing that I think international students should not forget is to be tolerant and also be confident about where you come from and your culture. People here came from all around the world, when we international students decide to go abroad to study, we should prepare ourselves to get exposed to different cultures. Some might even have some conflicts with our own. The important thing is to be understanding and compromising as to how people around us have been. And if you feel uncomfortable, just be who you originally are. Be comfortable with how you would like to behave in a not selfish way, and also keep in mind that other people have the right to do so as well.
Is there anything else you would like people to know?
Be careful of the junk food; they taste so good but are really not healthy haha.
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Disclaimer: Some quotations from this FISH Feature have been edited to improve grammar and remove verbiage for easier reading. This Feature has been read and approved by the individual who was interviewed.