Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted by Kehan Chen, who is helping Insider do outreach to the international community at Central Michigan University. Yan is still learning English, so some parts of the interview Chen translated for Insider. Chen is also an international student from China.
As a part of our Campus Voices Network, Insider is dedicated to providing any student to have a forum to share their story and views on issues that matter. If you would like to share your story or opinion, please contact Arielle Hines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some parts of this article were edited for clarity.
Q: Please introduce yourself.
A: I am a transfer student named Han Yan from China and I have been here for seven months. My major is electrical engineering.
Q: What was it like growing up in your own country? In your opinion, is there any special difference?
A: Because my parents’ were busy working, I began living on campus from high school, and only went back home on weekends. In the United States, there is a different dormitory culture.
In China, it is usually four to eight students living in one dormitory. Also, there is no concept about differences between the living room and the bedroom, while basically it has bunk beds. Hostels are required to be neat and clean, and do not allow unauthorized decorations.
In the United States I feel it is a totally different dormitory culture. Students could dress up the dormitory according to their own preferences. Moreover, American students also can change these decorations as variety in different holiday or celebrities.
In China, generally speaking, dormitories are separated for male and female, while in the United States, co-ed dorm is a very common phenomenon. In contrast, American students are more focused on own personalities and development.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge when you study abroad?
A: It’s really hard to say which part is the biggest challenge because there is a combination of a different language environment and the cultural environment.
First of all, it is the language. In the first week when I came to the United States, I remembered that I couldn’t communicate with other people because I couldn’t speak English well.
Another reason is due to the new environment, I am not familiar with the language habit and as a result, without enough confidence to understand what local people are saying. Followed by culture, even though I have been living in United States for seven months, I still don’t have the habit that saying “how are you” instinctively.
I hope in the future, I could have more contact with the American students and more chance to learn American culture as soon as possible.
Q: Is there any inconvenience when you live here?
A: Commuting, I think the US public transportation system is not as well developed in China. China’s public transportation system is very convenient. For instance, I can go wherever I want to go in a city through taxi, bus, subway or train with cheap price and saving lots of time. So, I didn’t learn to drive in my country.
However, I find in the United States, driving is a basic skill for general commute. For international students who just come to the United States, even to go to the supermarket to buy something is also difficult.
Later, I knew there are buses in Mount Pleasant, but it is hard to calculate and time consuming thinking about arriving as well as departures. In addition, if I want to go to the places which are not on campus, I need to make a phone call, which also is hard for the new international students. I do not try to take it until now.
Q: How do the CMU students treat you?
I feel they are really friendly. Last semester, I had two classes which had learning with local students. American students were quite friendly to me, especially professors.
When he knew that I have some difficulties with language, he gave me so much attention on it, such as giving me advice about how to learn in America. Meanwhile, the students are very enthusiastic, and they also encourage me have more communicate with them in order to improve my English capability. This is the reason that I like the CMU, kindness, friendly and honest.
Q: Do you miss China?
A: I miss my friends and Chinese food so much. Although at the beginning, there is more enthusiasm, when the time goes by, I began missing China. And I miss my friends especially, because I have little time to chat to them due to the time zones.
The good news is I am gaining more new friends in CMU so that I won’t feel alone particularly. Besides, there is a huge difference between Chinese food and American food, and as a result, I really miss my hometown dishes. In comparison, I prefer Chinese food definitely. But since I have poor cooking skills, there is no way to make delicious food. Therefore, I miss the variety styles of domestic foods.
Q: I know your boyfriend is in China now, how do you keep in contact with him? It’s really crazy that keep a relationship in such far distance.
It is a bit crazy, but love will not be limited by distance. We try to stay connected by communicating with each other often. We use an app so I can communicate with him in China. There is no fixed time, and share the thought and funny experiences in any times instantly. Although we do not meet in almost one year, I do have plans to visit him in China this summer.