Flyers Embracing Global Experiences: Yuan Zhou

Yuan Zhou, a second year graduate student at the University of Dayton (UD), encompasses a variety of cultural identities. Her parents are Chinese, she grew up in Thailand, and moved to the United States as an exchange student during her junior year of high school. Yuan has been able to navigate through her cultural identities, build meaningful relationships, and spark her passion for international education and exchange.

What has influenced or shaped your passion for international education and exchange?

I first came to the United States as an exchange student, during my junior year of high school. I studied at Wayne High School in Huber Heights. Since coming here, I have learned to embrace each culture that I come in contact with. I am particularly passionate about the intersection of international education and a person’s identity. My parents are Chinese, but I grew up in Thailand, and now I have lived in the United States for 8 years. Through my international education, specifically my studies in graduate school, I have learned how to mix and match and accept each of my identity traits. If someone were to ask me about my cultural identity, I would answer that I am a beautiful blend of Thai, Chinese, and American. Due to the various cultural immersions, I am encompassing more things than I was able to when I was just in Thailand. My cultural identity and experiences have impacted my passion for international education and exchange.

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

International education is key because you will learn different things like perspective taking, empathy, sympathy, being able to communicate across cultures to establish bonds, and more. A person could internalize these skills and apply them to general life skills too. Through intentional and carefully implemented activities during the international education, students are able to grow in these skills, reflect on their experiences, and make meaning of them.

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

Switzerland. I competed and actually won a scholarship that was for a Thai student to study abroad in Switzerland. Since my passport said that I am Chinese, I was not able to go. I just want to be able to go to a new country, experience a new culture and navigate through new language barriers. I want to see if I am still able to adapt to new cultures and to challenge myself. I want the experience to connect with more people and to learn through those experiences.

What is one aspect or memory of home that you still embrace today?

The hospitality in Thailand and China. I still get very stressed when I have an event at my house because I need to make sure that everyone is happy and taken care of. I have a very close relationship with the Thai community in Dayton and the Chinese students on campus, so their parents rely on me to take care of their children, while they are here in the United States. That relationship relates to the hospitality aspect, but also the emphasis that my cultures (Thai and Chinese) place on familial relationships too. Although we may not be a real family, we still take care of each other like one and refer to each other with familial terms. For example, in Thailand and China, we do not necessarily call each other by our first names. We refer to each other with a term to say “older sister” or “older brother”. This is something I remembered having to adjust when I came to the U.S.

Where are some places you have traveled that have expanded your perspective of yourself and the world?

Coming to the United States as an exchange student, and living with a host family. I was their first host daughter, and they were my first host family. I was presented with situations where I was able to explore the ways I respond to conflict and how to work through those experiences to maintain positive relationships with others. Since this was my first time in the United States, I was also exposed to different lifestyles. I learned that just because one type of lifestyle or situation is different, it does not mean it is wrong.

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

A quote by Buddha, “thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases from being shared”. To move humanity forward and to unite, there’s no way that one person can do it all. If you’re happy and you share it with someone, then it just amplifies that happiness even more. Happiness is unlimited.
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