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International Student Stories will be going on a brief hiatus over winter break.  Stories will resume being posted come late January. Happy Holidays & Safe Travels!



What International Students Have Taught Me, Pt. 1


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Although over the past six months I have realized that student affairs is not for me, I have valued and still value the time I spend with international students.  Each one of them is unique, but they all seem to share the same common quality of a tenacious bravery.  On the days that I’m feeling most like banging my head against my desk, frustrated to spend even one more moment contemplating the theories and practical daily matters of student affairs, international students most often can bring me out of my funk.  Here is a list of four things they have taught me over the past year.

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"I want to be a unique Chinese student."

This past week I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mingze, a junior finance major at Miami University. Mingze lent some interesting insight into Chinese family culture and how Chinese students are often perceived at American universities.  I loved hearing about her life back home as a kid in Northeastern China, her family, and her dreams for the future.  Go Mingze!

The Importance of Communication & Culture

"2009: it was my first semester and also the first time that I came to United States. I would say it is totally different here compared to China. Although it took me around half year to prepare for studying in U.S, it was obviously not enough. The only thing I knew about is I need to change so that I can adapt this brand new environment. The first year was tough for me. Especially the communication part, most of my friends were Chinese, I spoke Chinese all the time and barely speak English. Sometimes, my roommate would bring me to his friends’ party, because he want me to know that is a domestic student’s college life. I met lots of people during the party, but it was hard to let them understand my thoughts and opinions. Also, all my classes I was taking at that time were pretty hard me, because I couldn’t understand what professor said and I never ask professor to explain anything. As a result, I didn’t have a good grade for my classes.

Fortunately, things changed my second year. I figured out the reason my first year was tough was because of language. If I can talk to people easily, anything else would not be a problem. And I found out the easiest way to improve my language skill is talking. I talked to every person I met. It might sound a little crazy, but it helped me work through my communication problem. I was trying my best to learn the style that people talk to each other. It worked very well, after a semester I found out it was much easier to talk to people. Although there were still lots of things I didn’t know, but it I think once I have the language foundation, everything would become easier. Therefore, I always think the first two years is the best time to learn and adapt a new environment, because people have time since the classes are easier than junior or senior and people are willing to learn.

Some of my friends think the best way to prove they learnt something in U.S is that they have a good grade. I don’t agree with this opinion, I don’t mean good grade is bad, but I also think as an international student, we need to know more than study, such as culture, living style, and language. All of these beside study are also important.” 

-Weimeng Chen, senior at Miami University



Writing a Personal Statement

A webinar for U.S. and international students on how to write a personal statement for college applications.  A good resource as this can be the toughest part of the application process for international students.



Source: IIE

Source: IIE



Our first contributor to the International Student Stories project is Marcel, a graduate student at Miami University.  I sat down and spoke with Marcel about his home in Cameroon, the people who have influenced his life most, and what his life in the United States is like.  I was impacted most by his thoughts on the meaning of community and how he stays motivated.  Marcel is quick to smile, and comes across as a humble and lighthearted man who values family and hard work.  I appreciate the time that I have been given to get to know Marcel, both this semester and this past summer when we worked together as international peer orientation leaders.



This project is officially opened for interested participants!  The stories, artwork, and other products of great international student minds will be posted as they are created.  Stay tuned for brilliance…

This project is officially opened for interested participants!  The stories, artwork, and other products of great international student minds will be posted as they are created.  Stay tuned for brilliance…

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.
Robert McKee



International Student Stories Project

The International Student Stories project is focused on allowing the varied and unique experiences of international students studying in the United States be heard through creative methods that respect the student’s narrative and encourage self exploration.  The project takes the form of a blog on the social media site tumblr, and will use a multi-media approach based on the format the student feels most comfortable with.

International Student Stories seeks to allow the students who participate to share both what their life in their home country is like and what their life in the United States has been thus far.  The method in which the student chooses to share their story will only be outlined by three questions posed to the student.  They may choose to engage in an audio interview, video production, writing exercise, painting, song, poetry, or any other storytelling device they desire.

If you choose to participate in this project,  you will work with the site creator, Sarah O’Connell, to find the method that fits you best and the two of you will work to co-create your story.  The time commitment can be as in depth or short as you would like, but does require at least one interview meeting with me to ensure that we are both clear on how to achieve the best results of your unique story.

This blog is a part of a class assignment for a master’s program course in  the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) program at Miami University.  The project will be presented to the class in December of 2012, but will remain open to the public and promoted as the creator sees fit. 

The goal of this site is to share the stories of international students for three reasons: 

to help educate domestic students, faculty, and university staff on what being an international student is like;

to share with international students stories of their peers in order to help them better adjust and understand their own experiences;

and to help the participant explore issues of identity and personal history. 

If you are interested in participating, please contact Sarah O’Connell through email (