BY GABBY RAYMOND ’20
Making the trek to Mount Holyoke every year can result in over 20 hours of flying time for students coming from China; so what motivates so many Chinese international students to study here? For Anran Wang ’19, it was her spirit of adventure that led her to travel from her home in Guangzhou, China, to South Hadley for school. Her family moved from a small town to the large metropolitan city of Guangzhou when she was finishing her elementary school years. She cited the switch to big city life as a turning point in her personality.
“I want to have different experiences,” she said. “I don’t want to be confined in a small, nice city.”
Her dedication to new experiences also drove her away from the Chinese university system. Wang explained that by the time students get to high school they must choose either a science track or a Chinese history and politics track. “I don’t want to be predestined to a certain type of major before I really know them. Mount Holyoke really impressed me... [the staff] painted me a very lovely and friendly picture of campus before I came here,” said Wang.
During her first year, she described her academic choices as “very freestyle” -— Wang took dance classes, a first-year seminar focused on the politics of the environment and other subjects very different from the math and economics she had focused on in China. “I did not have any study-abroad experience before I came here. I challenged myself to adjust to the learning environment and immerse myself in English. Reading, writing and presenting are very difficult, but luckily I got a lot of support here,” said Wang. She also considers herself lucky to have learned English from a very young age from her mother, who is an English teacher.
Despite the support she’s received, Wang said that attending school in the U.S. still poses several challenges. After her first year she brought much less clothing and decoration because it was such a hassle to transport so much back and forth, especially without an on-campus storage unit for international students. Wang also brought more grains from China in order to supplement her diet with familiar foods instead of trying to drastically change her diet to dining hall entrees.
Wang feels her voice within the community has grown stronger as she’s become more involved in extracurriculars. She currently works for the Weissman Center for Leadership and serves as the western riding team’s senate representative. “When I was riding the horse for the first time I never realized how tall I was, but I felt so free, especially when I could feel the support of all my senior teammates around me,” Wang said.
After attending a lobbying day at the Boston State House during her sophomore year, Wang realized her potential to affect her environment. There, she found out international students were considered constituents of the Congressman of the College’s district.
“I feel like I’m getting more vocal after two years at Mount Holyoke,” said Wang. I feel like it’s a common trend for Chinese students not to speak up and get their voices heard, especially about the summer storage, which is really a pain for all of us. But now, I feel like I am starting to feel the pleasure of engaging in student affairs … I feel like if I see something, I know I can say something.”