What’s so special about Kent State?

Tianjun Shen

As an international student here at Kent State, I have been asked many times by my friends why I chose Kent State for graduate studies. An easy answer would be Kent State is a partner university with Shanghai International Studies University, where I completed my undergraduate studies, which made the application process a whole lot easier. At second thought, I wanted to experience what it was like to live in a small town because I grew up living more than 20 years in Shanghai, which is a metropolis in China.

I have been in the United States for just three weeks, but I have already found something that is so special and so different from what I had experienced in Shanghai.

People are welcoming and helpful to international students. When we arrived at the airport, Bob Simon from the International Friendship Connections picked me up and moreover, my two large suitcases. When I went to Bowman Hall to update my immigration status according to the directions given by my old campus map (it says “International student affairs” goes to Bowman), I met a criminologist helping part-time there who referred me to Van Campen Hall, as the office had moved there “a long time ago.” He also gave me a new map.

When I went for a morning run, people greeted me in a friendly way and I love that, although we were told at the international students orientation that when people said, “How are

you?” they were not necessarily expecting an answer. And, I love that when I have trouble with something, I can refer to an American friend, classmate or teacher, and he or she will always tell me “You’ll be just fine.”

I especially love the Flashfeet program, which allows me to borrow bikes free of charge. I rented the No. 1 bike from the Student Center the first day of this semester and rode it to class. It saved me a lot of time and trouble.

My classmate Shilpi said there was a problem in American universities trying to Americanize every international student, but I don’t view it as a serious problem. It is the mutual understanding between international and American students that matters. I want to know more about the Kent culture and Kent is welcome to know mine. I have spoken up and tried my best to take an active part in class. Class discussions are rarely seen in Chinese classrooms, but I am sparing no efforts to fit well in American classrooms.

One thing that surprised me a lot is the great liaison between the Kent community and university. The connections between the two are rare in Shanghai and one doesn’t usually have great influence on the other. Volunteers from the International Friendship Connections are providing us shopping trips to Walmart, picnics, trips to the West Branch State Park, conversation corners and most importantly, the opportunities to know and understand each other.

What’s so special about Kent State? The people, who are seriously working hard, seriously helping others and seriously having fun.

Tianjun Shen is a graduate higher education major and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.