Chinese students promote more integration for international students


Alumna Zhilin Guo participated in Chinese Students and Scholars Association’s “If You Are The One” on Sunday. The student-run Chinese dating show promotes friendships and relationships for international students on campus.

By Michelle Redondo

When jumping into a new American environment, international students may have a difficult time adapting. Despite the intimidation of this new culture, organizations like the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and International Student and Scholar Services try to integrate international students to help them have a good college experience.

Martin McFarlane, associate director of International Student and Scholar Services, encouraged University students to look at international students as individuals coming from different cultures, rather than as one group.

“To understand international students on campus, we first have to understand that a student from Korea is going to face unique issues compared to a student from Nigeria or a student from Brazil,” said McFarlane in an email. 

On Sunday, Chinese Students and Scholars hosted a dating event based off the popular Chinese television show “If You Are the One,” to help Chinese international students meet one another. 

Wenjia Ma, graduate student in LAS and general director of the event, said that as international students, the association felt they needed to create a sense of community and encourage Chinese students to share their culture. Nearly 50 percent of international students on campus hail from China, according to records from the Division of Management Information. 

Ma and the association decided to host the event because they felt most Chinese students are limited to their studies and departments at the University, which gives them fewer opportunities to connect with other people. 

“On this stage, not only can they find their true love, which is a possibility, but they can also express themselves and tell others that I am here and I am available and I want love,” Ma said. “This chance is very important for Chinese people because we are often shy and not daring to express ourselves.”

Alumna Zhilin Guo, a contestant in the event, felt she was unable to connect with people on campus, and found it difficult to make friends and even fall in love. 

“I hope if I join this, more people will know me, and we’ll have common hobbies and we can at least be friends,” Guo said. 

McFarlane said with the number of international students increasing each year, it is important to continue welcoming them to improve our campus. This fall the number of international students who enrolled at the University increased 4.3 percent from fall 2013 to fall 2014.

To help international students adjust, International Student Services offers social programs to introduce them to University culture and other international cultures through sports, food and cultural events. The service also has international students participate in the International Student Barometer survey to gauge the students’ happiness and overall life at the University.

“The first four categories: arrival, support, living and learning all scored above an 85 percent satisfaction rate,” said McFarlane in an email. “Nearly 85 percent of undergraduate students and 87 percent of graduate students said they would recommend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”

Although Ma said she still feels separation between Chinese students and the campus, programs like International Student and Scholar Services are trying to make campus more diverse, friendly and open to new people and experiences. 

“(If You Are the One) helps people express themselves onstage, so there is a chance for people to realize ‘Whoa, there are so many cool girls and guys here,’?” said Ma, who hopes events like these will expose the campus to a new side of the Chinese international population on campus.

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