Joelle Gates

Zenan Li


Zenan Li, a first-year business major, left his small village in Zhejiang, China, to purse his undergraduate degree.

After hearing about Marshall University’s business program, Li joined INTO, a program that brings international students to American universities to begin learning new skills and gain international exposure.

“We are young, so we want to go out and see things,” Li said. “My dream is to see the world, so it was time for me to be a man and leave home.”

Although this is the first time he has left his home country, Li said adjusting to life in America has been easy.

“The most different and difficult thing about coming here was the food,” Li said. “Chinese food and American food are very different, so it was a little uncomfortable to get use to what Americans eat.”

While he enjoys his new life in America, Li said language barriers on campus and in the community have caused many obstacles for him and his Chinese peers.

“When I came here to study, I was speaking English at a low level,” Li said. “Most people can’t understand what (Chinese) students say, and we have a hard time understanding English.”

Despite the struggles that may arise from this barrier, Li said having the opportunity to expand his speaking skills will only strengthen his communication skills for when he returns to his home country.

“I came to America to work on my English and communication and cultural skills,” Li said. “These skills might help me get a job in a good company, so I can learn as much as possible and eventually start my own.”

One way Li is improving his speaking skills is through English and communication courses that are required for his major.

“Having the chance to do public speaking and give speeches has given me advantages that we just don’t have in China,” Li said. “For me, communicating with others, especially American students, will improve my speaking skills. That’s very important to me.”

As he looks forward to the future, Li said he is excited to establish himself in America and hopes he is given more opportunities to learn from Americans and tell them about his home country.

“In America, I’ve been in many situations where I walk down the street and some Americans will make fun or harass me,” Li said. “In my opinion, this is what makes China better than America. Many Americans don’t understand what the situation in China is like, but we don’t evaluate people like that.”

Joelle Gates can be contacted at [email protected]