EDITOR’S NOTE: Starting school in a new country can be tough, but for many of Williamsport’s international students the culture shock is often replaced by a strong sense of community. Follow along with On the PULSE in our week-long series to discover the unique experiences of students who come here from across the globe.
When Xiyue Yang, of Henan, China, was considering attending Lycoming College, it was her personal connection with the staff and students that helped her decide.
During Lycoming’s choir tour to the Beijing’s Library Arts Center in 2016, Yang had the chance to talk to other students and faculty. The personal connection with her college admissions counselor also was a key factor.
“I was like, ‘Yeah this looks pretty cool—lets try it out.’ ”
Now, four years later, Yang is confident she made the right decision when she chose Lycoming. The college’s small class sizes and Williamsport’s small-town feel remind Yang of her Chinese roots.
“Everyone knows everyone,” she says, thinking of the restaurant owners she has met downtown, who often talk of their kids who went to Lycoming College. It’s something she didn’t get too much in Beijing, but recalls fondly from her youth in Henan before she moved to the big city for high school.
Yang nudges her trendy, round-rimmed glasses up her nose as she explains her field of study.
“Graphic design is creative,” she says. “My main focus is trying to get a job in the advertising and marketing industry.”
During her time at Lycoming, Yang says she was given opportunities that may not have been as readily available in larger cities and universities, especially for an international student.
It’s important for Yang to stay connected to Chinese culture, while still building a connection with her friends on campus. She is a resident adviser and works in the college’s I.T. department. But it was her involvement with various on-campus groups that first solidified her connection with her new friends and other students.
She credits the Multicultural Awareness Group’s yearly international dinner with helping her stay connected to her Chinese heritage, as well as exploring the cuisine, language and art of other cultures. Yang and her Chinese friends also celebrate their home-country’s festivals, gathering to cook a dish from home.
As for Williamsport, she appreciates the intimacy of the downtown area, as well as the city’s relationship with the college.
“I feel like it’s a giant family as a whole, if you think about it that way … Everybody just knows each other,” she says, laughing.
Though a self-described “outgoing person,” Yang admits she had a few reservations when she first came to the United States. Her family moved around a lot, so she was used to adapting to new places, but could she adjust to one so far away?
“Of course (you’re nervous),” she says. “It’s a different environment, you don’t know how everything is gonna go. Your English is not as perfect and you’re afraid you won’t understand what your professor says in class. But they have a group of really nice people who are really trying to connect you with the community here. So you feel like you’re not left out.”
Yang’s advice to future international students is “Be open-minded. “Also, don’t assume anything,” she says. “This place will surprise you in a nice way. But don’t assume everything is difficult, don’t assume everything is easy. Just take it in and try to find your way out.”