Hometown: Jiangsu Province, China
China 1+2+1: This fall, Danjing Shen will be one of more than 70 Chinese students studying at Mason as part of the China 1+2+1 program. Mason is one of 18 public universities to offer the program, which allows students from China to spend two years at an American university bookended by time at their Chinese universities, and receive diplomas from both. “In China, a lot of students and their parents are thinking about study abroad,” Shen says. “I came here to broaden my horizons. I want to know more and experience interesting things in the world.”
Learning Curve: Shen, like her Chinese cohorts, started studying English when she was in elementary school, but, she says, “I have to say, our English is really like Chinese-English. It’s a little different when you speak with English speakers.” Today, Shen speaks English remarkably well, and most important, she says, has the vocabulary to express herself. And, if a professor says something she doesn’t understand? “I will ask again and again. Most people understand that you are a foreign speaker and will [repeat themselves], or even [use] another, easier word for you to understand.”
Life Lessons: Traveling around the globe to study in a place where you don’t know the language or the customs—without your family and friends—requires tremendous bravery, and it seems Shen will leave Mason with a well-earned sense of empowerment. “Before I entered Soochow University in China, I had no experience taking a train by myself, but when I came here, I had to take a 15-hour flight by myself,” she says. “One of the most important things I learned here is how to live independently. It makes me feel more strong, valuable, and confident.”
Getting Acclimated: At Chinese universities, roommates share the same major, take the same classes, and eat meals together. Electricity is turned off at 11 p.m., which means no computers, no TVs, no lights. So, American dorms—with no curfews and roommates on completely different schedules—took a bit of getting used to. To make Mason feel more like home, Shen and her fellow 1+2+1 participants ride the CUE Bus to Asian supermarkets in the area (they aren’t crazy about American food) and then cook together in their dorm kitchens. “In China, making and sharing a meal is how friends and families get together,” she says.
Patriot Pride: Included on the list of things Shen will miss about Mason are her professors, her new friends, the beautiful buildings, fireflies, and the blue sky. “But,” she says, “I will be back.”