Sunday October 29, 2017

Flyers Embracing Global Experiences: Yu "Joseph" Zhao

Yu “Joseph” Zhao is a junior, Psychology major who works at making the most of his time as an international student at the University of Dayton (UD). Originally from Nanjing, China, he shares more about his reflections as a student leader, and his connections around campus.

Can you share an intercultural experience or moment that inspired you?

My first semester on campus, I went to the Alumni Hall Chapel for the Marianist Brothers. As I was sitting there and an older lady approached me and asked if I wanted to pray with her, so I said, sure. Afterwards, I learned she was a Dayton community member and she asked where I’m from; I shared I was from China. We then had a four-hour conversation, sharing more about our cultural backgrounds. It was really exciting, because even though we live in different places, and come from different backgrounds, we still connected because we came from a sincere place in learning about each other. That’s one of the things that really helped me see I should open myself more to share my experiences, because I see how people are truly interested; I didn’t realize my cultural identity could be something people are interested in. So I thought why not start doing that in my daily life? I gradually formed a habit of sharing something about my culture in the classroom, or in my lunch table conversations. I always hope there is something I can find to connect with a new person.  

In your opinion, what are some benefits to international education and exchange?

When I first came to the U.S., I started to compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the two different cultures, and at first I definitely looked more at the differences. I realized even though in this new culture there was difference, there was also a lot of great things we can learn. It allowed me to see my own culture from a different perspective. There is an old saying in China, “the reason why you don’t know the whole picture of the mountain is because you are in the mountain”. Unless you jump out of the mountain, or stand far away, you won’t be able to see the full scale of the mountain. It really reminds me of how beneficial cross cultural (engagement), or studying abroad can be and how it can help me to view your own culture from a new perspective.  

As a student, how do you promote international education and exchange or expanded intercultural experiences whether through campus, community, or around the world?

I works as a Resident Assistant (RA) on the Cross Cultural Connections floor, and I’m really grateful that I have that opportunity. I get to tell students about study abroad opportunities, and invite them to the different cultural events happening on campus. Even if they can’t physically go to another country, I encourage them to take advantage of the diversity on campus. Sometimes we just need to do something as simple as greet someone who is different from us, even if we don’t feel totally comfortable. From both ends, both U.S. and international students, I encourage them to just start a conversation.

Where is a place you have always wanted to explore, and why?

After studying at UD for over two years, I feel like I know more about Dayton than my own city.  I’ve realized how little I know about my own culture, and the many places in my own country. This fall break, I went on the REAL Dayton Breakout Trip, and we learned about many different aspects of Dayton, and some of the difficulties and challenges we face as a community. We also learned how the people in the city of Dayton have been trying to work together to solve and become solutions to many of these problems. That really inspired me to think about how much do I know about my own city?  What can I offer or contribute to make my city better? Right now I’m hoping I can explore my home city even more, and do whatever I can to help, and be part of the solution.

Who is someone that has inspired you or you believe to be a role model for global leadership? Why?

I really respect and love Mother Teresa’s story.  Her life defined what a global leader should be; not for the sake of making everyone the same as what you are but appreciating who they are and allowing them to live out where they are from, and embracing it. It really gives me inspiration to know you can live life in that way.

If you had to pick a life motto or quote, what would it be? Why?

I remember Mother Teresa said, “do small things with great love.” That has really helped me see big changes come from small actions; those small acts of love and peace, they really count. Even though on a micro level we can’t always see how they will impact the big picture, in the end we have to hope we have passed on the positive energy that indeed will make a difference. It’s a simple quote but I really like it, because it tells the truth and really gives me hope.

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