Involvement on campus helps Chinese freshman adjust and thrive

By Holiday Tang, Staff writer

I traveled from China on Aug. 14, 2015 to U of I alone. I felt exhausted, but eager. It is still hard to believe that a year has passed already, but it is even harder to believe how much have I learned, and grown as an Illini.

Because I was in a completely new place with no connections to anyone, my first priority was to make friends. Thanks to my extroverted personality and positive attitude, I was able to open myself up to a lot of different people.

I really enjoy the friendships I have built with a diverse group of people, and the experience is truly mind-opening. Beyond the help and care we offer to each other during tough times, I have been able to listen to different voices and encounter different cultures.

Other than my amazing American friends, I have created a good relationship with a Brazilian family and a Mexican family.

I experienced some culture shock when a mother of a Brazilian friend kissed me on my neck when she was saying goodbye, but I was also grateful for such a sweet memory she left for me. I was flattered when a friend of mine invited me over to their family dinner on Thanksgiving.

I am proud that throughout the first year I was brave enough to step out of my comfort zone to meet different people. My goal is to continue doing that because of the joy I receive from a sincere friendship. And when you are willing to open to others, the cultural exploration is more of a fascinating process than a culture shock.

Apart from my social life, I was able to balance well between my academic life, my job as a dinning worker and my involvement in RSOs.

I was hesitant when I was applying for a job and signing up for different organizations because I didn’t know if there would be too much pressure on my academics. I eventually decided to test my limits because I constantly recalled the famous quote “If you risk nothing, you are risking everything”.

So I took on the challenges, and as expected, my life became chaotic when my working hours and RSO-meetings flowed into my academic schedule. To combat this, I followed a Youtube channel with a focus on efficiency in college. Later on, as I was getting more and more acquainted with using an online calendar, checklist and other time management skills, I was able to handle the workload despite the pressure.

In class, beyond getting the grades I wanted, I was able to connect with some of my professors and TAs on a personal level. Much of this happened simply because I showed up in their office hours with a sincere interest in the subject material. I’ve learned that they can be more than just academic resources and I can learn from their valuable experiences and inspirational life stories as well.

At work, I did only one or two simple things that turned out to be magical in helping me adjust: I talked and I smiled.

I talked to all the co-workers and supervisors and found out that they were all interesting and kind people. I smiled at all the people I met every single day. Later on, people started to open the conversation and my supervisors came to my assistance with a trustworthy smile.

My involvement in RSOs on campus gave me the sense of fulfillment and the enlightening joy which a person would only cherish. In the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity, I was able to meet and maintain a brotherhood with a group of respectful and promising gentlemen.

At the Daily Illini, I am constantly feeling refreshed by the ideas presented by my colleges, and I am grateful that I can keep writing, which is a passion of mine.

I enjoyed the journey and survived the hardships, but it was the pressure from the schedule that brought out the passion, determination and endurance inside me. Additionally, I am satisfied with the grades on my academic records more than my on-campus engagement.

Thanks to my courage and the wonderful experience of my freshmen year, I’ve gladly come to a moment of realization. The University is more than a place for transforming one into a knowledgeable individual; it also will transform you into an adventurer who dares to live life to its fullest and who dares to confront one’s fears to explore and grow.  

I am going to keep taking risks in the ongoing process of challenging myself. This year, I am taking on a new role as a Multicultural Advocate in Pennsylvania Residence Hall to help foster a welcoming and respectful community where different identities are celebrated. I am an Illini, I am from China and the challenge continues.

Holiday is a sophomore in LAS. 

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