My name is Xidan Xiao. I'm from China where I majored in Finance. I have been at St. Ambrose one year, as a senior student. I will study one more year to get a Master of Finance degree.
Studying abroad is the most important decision I've ever made, even though there are some difficulties in communication with people due to the language barrier. When I first came here, everything around me was very fresh. I liked the way people say hello to strangers; teachers, roommates, cleaning ladies, and staff in the cafeteria all told me, "welcome to America."
During the first semester, I spent a lot of time studying by myself since I could hardly understand the teacher's words. I felt lucky when I studied with my group, and my advisor, Dr. Liu, offered us a lot of help. All of our teachers understand our language barrier and showed a lot of patience, and encouraged us to ask questions whenever we get confused. All of our teachers are so nice that they even take us to very nice restaurants. We got invited by Father Chuck to his house for dinner and our previous international student advisor, Jennifer (Tuite) to her farewell party.
After the first year I did well on academic study and also joined some activities held by the RA in McCarthy Hall, Interfaith Council community, and of course, international office. It was very sweet to celebrate our Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Day at St. Ambrose with the help of our international student advisor, Catherine (Toohey). We made dumplings, watched the television show on Spring Festival in our friend Kemper's (Rusteberg) dorm, and celebrated it with his friends.
There was a small conversation that happened among us that impressed me. We had remarked that "we're just very ordinary Chinese students in our university, because we don't have remarkable GPA or very special talents."
Then Kemper said, "coming to St. Ambrose already makes us special." That's so true. The experiences I've gotten here are more than I've had in the previous 20 years of my life. Before I came here, I didn't realize China is known by all the Americans, because there are a lot of countries that I don't know about. I was in a shoe shop, and a salesman asked me where I came from. I said, "China." Then he kept asking where. Then I said, "Asia," and he laughed, saying, "everybody knows China."
We are the first group of Chinese students coming to St. Ambrose, and I feel lucky and blessed to get this opportunity to share with other people our Chinese culture. There are also a lot of cultural differences in daily life. At the beginning I had very energetic roommates, so that I learned the party culture on every Friday. I appreciate that Americans more independent and have a free life style, such as most of Americans start working at the age of 13. Usually, we start working after we graduate from university. Also, there was a very nice host family that shared with us a lot of American life experience.
The other experience that impresses me the most is religion. St. Ambrose is a Catholic school. It impresses me a lot when I step into our church and sing with others, share with people's experience, our gratefulness for life, and our love for god. I'm Buddhist in China, also follow Tao religion. Before I came here, I thought we talk to god without language; we use the feeling from our heart to communicate with him. The definitions of religions all come from humans. And the difference of history, background, language and a lot of different factors emerge from different religions. I'm happy that I've met a lot of friends here that have the same feeling as me. We respect each other's fate, and I also start to love the way people pray here. We go to a Chinese Christian church on some of the weekends.
During some holiday breaks in the first year, I traveled around some places, which also gave me some incredible experiences. I went to Chicago, Seattle, St. Louis, Orlando, and Vancouver, Canada. Every city has its soul. It's great to travel around and know more about this lovely world, give a smile to a passersby, and take nice pictures that will go along with me.
The most important thing that I hold dear are the friends I've made here. Not only Americans, but also international. I've met some very awesome friends from Mexico and Nepal at the second semester. This past summer, I had classes with my other two classmates and had a lot of fun on campus. We wore Indian traditional dress (sari) and took pictures. I learned a lot of different cultures and enjoyed food that was cooked by international taste. We shared a lot of memories: Sometimes buffalo wings, sometimes bowling, sometimes casino, sometimes movies.
Also this summer, we met a group of Indian students, which are on our SAU's American Business Experience program. We played with sparklers, had dinners, played indoor games, and watched fireworks on Independence Day. These memories will last forever, along with the pictures we took.
Now I'm a graduate student, and it's a new beginning to my second year in the U.S. This semester I'm living with a girl from India, Minu; our international ambassador, Leah; and my Chinese friend, Heybe. Every week we have American, Indian, and Chinese food. I also applied for an on-campus job as a research assistant, which is a job that helps Dr. Arun Pillutla with some of his research and classes. Thanks to St. Ambrose and all the people I've met here - along with your help, encouragement, and company - I've been given these experience and memories. I've become a better me.