A students journey from China to Vermont

Despite language barriers and homesickness, one sophomore international student began her first year at UVM this fall.

Coming from Beijing, China, April (Yue) Qiao said she is hoping to remain in America for future educational opportunities, but there are still some challenges particularly when it comes to communicating.

On UVM

Sophomore April Qiao studies on the green outside of Bailey/Howe Library  Oct.15 Qiao, and international student from China, has a background in the English language but had to study for international university entrance exams PHOTO BY EVA BARTELS
Sophomore April Qiao studies on the green outside of Bailey/Howe Library Oct.15 Qiao, and international student from China, has a background in the English language but had to study for international university entrance exams PHOTO BY EVA BARTELS

“I think UVM did a good job bringing me in, because there’s lots of programs for international students,” Qiao said.

Qiao said she gets help from the Writing Center and through a Chinese-English speaking program.

In the program, “Ameri- can students and international Chinese students communicate with each other to help improve language skills,” she said.

But language is still the biggest barrier.

“Sometimes I communicate with one or more American students and they just talk very fast to each other and all I can do is pretend and nod my head and smile like I understand but I don’t,” she said. “I don’t know what to say, it’s embarrassing.”

She also wishes she had access to better notes for classes.

“There’s a program called note-taker to help disabled students, but I can’t get into it be- cause I don’t have a disability,” she said.

Qiao said sometimes her professors talk too fast and she isn’t able to keep up.

“I can learn a lot in class but there’s still some things I don’t understand, so I think if we could have more help in the notes it would be better,” she said.

On Life In China

Qiao was born in the Henan Province, which is located in central China.

“When I was 10 years old we moved to Beijing, which is a big city and much more developed than Henan,” Qiao said.

“Beijing is less population dense than Henan but has more diversity, because it consists of many immigrants,” she said.

China has a total population close to 1.5 billion, according to the CIA World Factbook. Beijing, the capital, has a population over 20 million.

Qiao said a lot of people from other provinces move to Henan in hopes of finding more opportunities.

In China, she often had 50 to 60 other students in class with her.

“You have one classroom, and all classes happen in that one room with students taking the same ones together,” Qiao said.

“We also had to memorize the multiplication table when we were around 6 or 8 years old,” she said. In primary and high schools, sometimes we could use a calculator, but no matter what you couldn’t use one for an exam.”

The Decision to Study in the U.S.

For Qiao, studying in America for her graduate degree was the original plan.

“When I was in high school, I wanted to study in China for my undergraduate degree and do my graduate in America,” Qiao said. “But after the college entrance exam, my situation was a little different.”

The college entrance exam is a test that every Chinese student must take before going to college. The higher the score the better the college, she said.

Qiao originally wanted to study fashion design, but she didn’t pass the test.

“I was very embarrassed that I didn’t pass that exam, but I got a good score on my college entrance exam,” she said.

Qiao wasn’t satisfied with the offer she received from a Chinese college, so she began to consider studying in a different country.

“When I saw the rank of the world’s top 100 universities, America had almost 50 or 60 of those,” Qiao said. “I had to pass the TOFLE, an exam for English language learners, and it’s very hard for a Chinese student.”

Qiao said she learned English in school, about 4,000 words, but the exam requires students to know around 8,000-10,000 words.

“I had to study like crazy that year,” she said. “I joined the U.S. Pathway Program where I could learn courses in China and the teachers were from English-speaking countries, and they teach to you in English and you can earn college credits for it.”

The USPP was created by the Consortium of North American Universities. The program is designed to help students in China prepare to get a Bachelor’s degree at a U.S. institution, according to the UVM Office of International Education web- site.

Qiao said six American universities are part of the program she is in. UVM is one of those universities.

The Future

“Now that I’m in America, maybe I will go to graduate school here or in another European country,” Qiao said. There’s no reason for me to go back to China for that.”

Qiao said she believes she will have more advantages studying in America than in China.