International student finds her footing at TU

By: John Mabilangan, Contributing Writer

Yuqi Wan, a former Towson University English Language Center student, is now a full-time international student from Anhui, China studying for a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, Accounting at TU.

As an international student who strives to maintain a high GPA of 4.0, she also actively involves herself on campus through various student organizations. As of 2020, she is the president of the International Students Association. As the president, she strives to promote cultural diversity and awareness while bridging the social gap between international and domestic students.

Born in Anhui, China, Wan was an only child who grew up under China’s immensely competitive education system and collectivist culture. Her upbringing in China pushed her to excel academically in mathematics while becoming quite reserved and restrained under the social and cultural expectations of her homeland. As soon as she hit adulthood, Wan says, her parents were catalysts in her pending move. 

“At this stage of my life, my parents were really supportive,” Wan said. “They wanted me to discover other cultures and grow to become the best person I could be.” 

Wan was sent to America to study abroad in August of 2017. Wan’s first steps abroad began in Towson University’s English Language Center to develop and grow her English skills. Having spoken Chinese for most of her life, learning English was the first hurdle in her journey. She spent one whole year in Towson’s English Language Center before becoming a full-time Towson student. Wan recalls her first experiences as a Towson student. 

“I was really really nervous and I didn’t know anyone,” she said. “English wasn’t my first language so when I had to do collaboration activities in class, I struggled to talk to my classmates and work in group discussions because I was a foreigner there.” 

Wan’s first two years in Towson faced her with hardship. From communication struggles to adapting to America’s culture.

“I joined the International Students Association and I was able to work with a variety of students from different cultures and backgrounds,” she said. “I even had the opportunity to go to James Madison University to learn some leadership skills.”

Becoming an active student in both her academics and in her major, Wan was able to not only adapt in Towson’s competitive environment but also thrive in it.

“I don’t know how she’s able to keep up with her grades while doing all these clubs,” said Anna Quach, a former event coordinator at the organization, who has worked together with Yuqi frequently. “It seems tough, but I’m impressed she’s able to do all those things at once.” 

Listing out her struggles and experiences as a student, Wan compared herself to the person she was before coming to the U.S. and the person she is now. 

“Before coming to the U.S. I was really nervous,” Wan said. “I was afraid to express my judgments and opinions. But coming to America, the environment really changed me to open my mind, to speak out my opinions, to be confident and brave.” 

The Chinese native credits this change to a culmination of her Chinese upbringing, overcoming cultural barriers, and to her supportive family in China and caring friends in Towson University.

“We met in freshman year during international orientation,” shared a close friend of Yuqi, Riya Patel. “We were so quiet back then, but the longer we stayed here, I noticed she started being more assertive and speaking up for herself more. Though we’ve gone through a lot studying abroad here in the U.S., we’ve also grown a lot from it.”

Though she has had her successes, like all international students, she still has some challenges to overcome, such as paying for the cost of tuition. Wan also spoke on her struggles in seeking a job.

“I wish people, and even Towson, could understand that being an international student is not easy,” Wan said. “Getting through school and extracurricular activities are already hard as is, and finding work isn’t any easier either since there are not many companies that would sponsor our stay here. I wish it was easier because I want to be able to get a job. I want to be here.”

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