Hongxi Li, a student voice:

What does it mean to study abroastudent-2709817_1280d?  What does it mean to be an international student? These questions still linger inside of me even until now, even though I am already a sophomore at Lewis & Clark College.  In trying to answer these questions, I see that the answer is ultimately who I am and how I am affected by my experience here, studying in the United States.

For me, I would have to admit that I am a person with a strong awareness of cultural identity. I love my Chinese culture, and I am proud of it. Connecting with students from other cultures give me a better understanding about the unique part of my own culture. As well, I am able to better understand another culture, which was hard to know in the past simply because I had no opportunity to experience it and gain insight.

Now, I have been taking academic English classes at Lewis & Clark in the Academic English Studies (AES) department. Being a part of the AES gives me a lot of time to study and spend time with different international students, which I think is especially helpful having just left home to study abroad for the first time. The AES Program doesn’t just help prepare me for the coming intense undergraduate classes, but also know that I am not alone in facing the challenges of studying abroad because I am with other international students. I think this is important because living in another culture can be intimidating during, undoubtedly, one of the most confusing times of life. It is easy to feel lost and have doubts when immersed in another culture.  Besides, simply living in another culture is already a hard enough challenge,  especially for someone like me who has a strong cultural identity because I am constantly experiencing differences between my culture and American culture. I think the amazing thing here at Lewis & Clark and the AES program is that I don’t need to change who I am to satisfy other people’s expectations.  I can be myself with my own cultural background and start to learn about other cultures and how to cope with them. I think this is the real reason why being able to start in an intensive English program is important and special for all new incoming international students.  While studying in the AES program, I haven’t had to be solely exposed to American culture all a sudden but I am able to control the pace through gradually engaging with other people. In the AES program, I am reminded that I can be different and special here all the time. This helps me to better consider my own cultural background and how to successfully live in a different culture without losing my own identity.     

Studying abroad is a great opportunity to have the chance to learn about oneself and discover one’s identity. As an international student at Lewis & Clark, I have this chance to gain more awareness of who I am. For those who haven’t had any experience of studying abroad, I encourage all of you to try it as it is so important and helpful to better understand your own culture and the culture where you are studying.

Hongxi Li is an undergraduate at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon.  He is currently taking classes in the Academic English Studies department.