The reality of Chinese-international students: Exploring on-campus resources hidden in plain sight

The Lantern
The Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization aims to immerse Chinese-international students in Ohio State’s school culture, while simultaneously allowing them to stay connected to their Chinese roots. Credit: Courtesy of Lang Luo

For Chinese international students, adapting to American culture within a four-year public university can be a difficult adjustment, as is the case with many international students from other countries.

Chinese international students at Ohio State often feel excluded from college culture, due to a variety of social factors. Lang Luo, a fourth-year in sport industry and the primary leader of the Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization, said many Chinese international students experience this exclusion due to language barriers and college-related practices like class participation, himself included.

“English is not my first language, and I think most Chinese students who come to Ohio State University, they will come [to] find a situation where they will use English to talk in class, to ask questions and answer questions,” Luo said. “I remember that first time [attending] a class, my major class, I’m the only Chinese student in the class, and I’m a little afraid to talk to my classmates and the teachers.”

Luo said the prevalence of these challenges is precisely why the Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization exists. Due to the differences in social culture, Luo said it’s common for Chinese international students to limit their socialization efforts to similar students, which the organization works to combat.

“In our organization, many Chinese students always stay together,” Luo said. “They like to make friends with other Chinese students, but not American students or other-country students, so this is a common, but not good, phenomenon.”

Luo said one of the ways the organization aims to tackle this is by hosting Chinese New Year parties, welcome parties and various other events to help Chinese international students feel comfortable around non-Chinese students at Ohio State.

Luo said he thinks these Chinese holiday parties can not only help Chinese international students feel less intimidated by unfamiliar environments but also help non-Chinese students understand and familiarize themselves with Chinese culture, he said.

“We will invite American students and other kinds of students to attend, to join us, to play some Chinese games, and we will ask our student members to talk to them, to give them our presence so they can better understand what are we doing, and they can help us to make friends with foreign students,” Luo said.

In addition to the Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization, the Office of International Affairs, also known as the OIA, is another resource all international students can benefit from, OIA program manager Amanda Yusko said.

The office organizes numerous activities throughout the year to help international students integrate into American campus life, Yusko said. According to the office’s website , there are recurring weekly Global Engagement Nights on Tuesdays from 6-7 p.m., in room 160 at Enarson Classroom Building, where students and faculty meet to discuss different cultures around the world.

The OIA also offers the English Conversation Program to provide language support for international students, Yusko said.

According to the OIA’s website , the program consists of a wide range of social events, retreats and workshops that all serve to “[make] real conversations happen in fun and exciting ways.” Some of these events include the Highbanks Metro Park Hike and the monthly International Film Series, the website states.

Yusko said despite the wide range of resources for Chinese and other international students on campus, many students don’t know about them.

“There really are a lot of events that are happening through OIA, and a lot of ways that we hope students will take advantage of so they can get more involved both with our office and with the community as a whole,” Yusko said.

Ultimately, Yusko said it’s important to acknowledge the bravery of all international students, as well as the legitimacy of their day-to-day struggles.

“Our international students come from so far away,” Yusko said. “They leave their families and their friends and everything that they are used to. They’re coming here to pursue their dreams and their academic aspirations. That’s not easy.”

Chinese international students looking for on-campus resources can find more information through the Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization’s Instagram , where Luo said they can also expect to find information about an upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival on Saturday in the near future.

All international students can learn more about the university resources at their disposal via OIA’s website .

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