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It has been a long, strange trip indeed for Lei Sun.
Some 6,000 miles and 12 time zones from her home in Beijing, Sun has discovered a new world at the University of Minnesota, Crookston, populated with great teachers and many helpful people. “I like the faculty here because they really support me and there are a lot of really nice, friendly people here,” Sun said. “I’ve been to other countries but I never thought Americans would be so friendly.”A senior majoring in business management, Sun said she is receiving the education she needs to hopefully one day start a business of her own back home.
Small class size and personalized attention from professors have made all the difference in adjusting to a culture, language and locale about as far removed as possible from the big city life she was accustomed to.
It hasn’t always been easy, she said.
“In the beginning, my English was not so good and I could not talk and I did not understand my classes,” she said. “However, UMC has a lot of great teachers and they gave me a lot of help and taught me how to face a new learning environment.”Noting that the Crookston community is not an excitement mecca, Sun said she appreciates the slower pace, as she is “easily distracted.” Sun said studying and learning, coupled with her involvement in campus clubs and activities, keeps her plenty busy.
She has been involved in several clubs and tutoring and is a member of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and the Multicultural Club.
“There are many opportunities to be involved,” she said. “It’s hard to be bored.”
Sun said affordable tuition and scholarships have played a big part in her positive experience at UMC, as has her job working at the Campus Help Desk, where she likes her boss and coworkers and has learned a lot.
While the Internet first brought UMC to her attention (she says she was looking for an adventure), the Internet and video telephony also help her stay in contact with family and friends back home in China.
Sun said she misses her family, whom she has not seen in more than two years, as well as “real” Chinese food.
“My sister holds up the bowl and says ‘See? I’m eating food,’” Sun said, describing a typical video call. She said she does manage to whip up some authentic tasting cuisine at her Crookston apartment.
Overall, Sun says she has benefited and enjoyed her time here.
“I was surprised when I arrived because it was brown and flat. There were no plants; no houses,” she said. “Crookston is a small town to me, but people who live here know each other and have good relationships. It looks like a big family.”
(Story and Photo by Preston Gobel)