The distance across the open waters of the Pacific Ocean from Ogden to Qingdao, China, is approximately 6,500 miles. Qingdao is a coastal city located in Northern China, and is also hometown to Weber State University international student Elain Liu.
Liu made the long trip to Utah, along with 22 classmates, to attend WSU and complete a degree in international economics. She is 20 years old and currently lives at University Village.
The dry desert climate of Ogden took Liu by surprise.
“The weather here confuses me; it’s too dry,” she said.
She also noticed the vast difference of people in Ogden, which has a little more than 82,000 inhabitants, as compared to the bustling city of Qingdao, with well over 8 million people.
Elain is Liu’s chosen American first name, but Nian is her given Chinese name. The tradition of choosing an American name can happen during different times of one’s life. Liu personally picked her name in high school due to the instruction of an American teacher who wanted to pronounce the class names more effortlessly. Her friend Julie Zhu, also an international student at WSU, whose Chinese name is Rui, selected her name during elementary school from an online American website.
Liu has traveled to the United States before, but this is the first time she has lived in Utah and studied as an international student.
“I actually heard about this city before, and I knew it was a beautiful city,” she said. “Fortunately, my university in China has a program with Weber State University, and so I came here.”
Liu is connected with the LEAP Program (Learning English for Academic Purposes) on campus and is taking those ESL classes for her first semester. LEAP allows students structured English instruction each week.
“I think it’s really fun,” Liu said. “We have writing class, grammar class and communication class. I know a lot of different people from different countries, and I have made a lot of friends. It’s more fun than my major class.”
There are many differences between China and the United States, and college life is one of them. Liu attended Shanghai Normal University, which consists mostly of women.
“There is one man to every seven girls,” said Rebecca Weng, who also attended SNU. “You see many ugly boys with a very pretty girl.”
SNU contains many female-specific colleges, including teaching, literature, acting and dancing. Men in China tend to be attracted to other universities, or mechanical and technical colleges.
“The only handsome boy was in the acting college,” Liu said.
Liu said the men at WSU are attractive, but that she misses her boyfriend back in China. She said it helps that she is able to communicate with him over the Internet, as well as with her parents.
“I miss my family and friends the most,” Liu said.
Zhu agreed. “I miss my mother, her dishes and the foods made by her. I cook badly and I don’t want to wash the dishes.”
Another difference between the two campus lifestyles is class scheduling.
“In China, we have many classes,” Liu said. “We need to take classes from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is one class after the other, and no relax or part-time.”
At WSU, most students wouldn’t even consider such a rigorous school schedule, due to the fact that a majority of the students work full-time jobs or have a nontraditional status.
The party and social scene is also quite different in China. Liu had never been to a late-night party until living at WSU and attending the many social events at University Village.
“In China, people don’t have a party like this,” she said. “Sometimes we throw a party, but it’s not like the parties here. Maybe it’s just to sit around a table and talk, and no dance. People from China are not as excited as here.”
Liu will attend WSU for the next two years and might continue her education at WSU after that.
“I really like it here,” she said. “I took a lot of pictures here because it is really so beautiful.”