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Department Newsletter

My Experience as an International Student: Yuanyuan Li


It feels like yesterday when I spent almost two days on flight and in the airport before finally arriving in Raleigh. As a spring student, my study abroad trip started exactly on New Year’s Day three years ago which should have been a new start but it didn’t go so well at first. A language test was just the first step on the way to study abroad, and the real life living in a new environment using a second language was completely different from learning English at home. 

It’s easy to feel curious and new to everything at the beginning while feeling overwhelmed and homesick after some time. I was not a homesick person but still felt overwhelmed during the first semester. In-class discussion used to be my nightmare because I had to both catch up with what the teacher and classmates said as well as organize my thoughts in English. I was hesitant to raise my hand and afraid of making mistakes, which only lead to regret when missing the opportunity to express myself. Gradually I realized it doesn’t help at all just listening to what others say and the only way that can help me talk more is to talk. It’s not a big deal to make mistakes in using a language and I met many nice people who are patient and kind when listening to what I was saying. I started to join some events I was interested in and that’s why I am a student ambassador in our department now.

Many people are surprised when I tell them my major. The stereotype is that international students tend to choose STEM majors while humanity and social science are not in their consideration. It can’t be denied that being a sociology major student means a lot of work on reading and writing which can be a challenge especially when using a second language, but it’s an opportunity to see things from a different culture perspective. Sociology is a study that needs a social context. Digging into why some phenomena are different than that in my growing environment is a fascinating part of being an international student studying sociology.

During the summer, I worked for the University Performance Program as a student ambassador helping some new international students before they arrived and the orientation before the semester started. I made posters to introduce different topics that related to our college life and frequently asked questions, such as school shuttle, events on campus, housing, and how to get academic help. I also directly answered students’ questions about how to prepare for the new semester like how to login to the school website, course registration, vaccination and so on. One thing I really liked was that our program held an online orientation that not only introduced college life but some events that can let students know what studying abroad feels like. I was assigned with a group of students to work together on some small projects including teamwork and presentation, during which they can learn what group discussion in class may look like and how to find resources.

It is a big challenge for international students to be here on campus during the pandemic, but I felt pleased to see some of them in person who connected with me during the summer. I helped with the in-person orientation before the class started and took them on a campus tour which was my favorite part. It reminded me of my first time I walked through the campus and was captivated by everything around me.

Both being an international student and working with international students are important experiences for me. There will be some obstacles but walking into the larger world will never disappoint you.

This post was written by Yuanyuan Li, a sociology major and Department of Sociology and Anthropology Student Ambassador.

headshot of Yuanyuan Li