A few years ago, Ci Song was researching American universities online, pondering where he'd like to earn his higher education. He came across some rankings that mentioned Saint Leo University. Once he read more about the school and saw photos of its University Campus in Florida, he was immediately sold.
The 19-year-old was born in Guangzho, the capital of the province Guangdong in southern China. He grew up in a city called Fuyang. He has a younger sister, Yuting, who is 14 and still lives with their parents back in China.
From China to Saint Leo
It was how the campus looked that persuaded him to take the leap from China to the United States to earn a bachelor's degree at Saint Leo.
"The campus is beautiful, and that was a big reason I wanted to come here," he explains.
When first setting foot in the U.S. with his uncle, he visited Washington, D.C. and New York.
"It was very impressive being up in that area," he says.
He currently lives on campus and says he has enjoyed the experience.
"This year, I've had three roommates who are American, Mexican and Russian," he says. "They have all been very nice and have helped me learn English and get off to a good start here in the U.S."
He is a sophomore economics major, a focus of study he chose thanks to the guidance of his advisor. As a student in Saint Leo's Bridge Program, he has enjoyed the challenge of improving upon his English language skills.
"You just really have to practice it a lot, especially just having conversations with others. I think it's been pretty easy to learn overall."
Song, who grew up learning Mandarin, points to Natalya Glover of the Bridge Program as one of his favorite professors.
Saint Leo proudly incorporates its six core values into its wide array of campus-based and online programs. For Song, excellence has been the one core value that has made the biggest impact on him.
"I've discovered that learning something new can take a lot of time. But if you keep pushing, you can get better at it each time."
Fitting into American Culture
According to Song, it hasn't been too difficult for him to find his footing transitioning into a new culture.
"I've met and made lots of new friends who have all been supportive, along with some great professors. I've even met a few other Chinese students and students from all over the world."
He adds that there are several parallels between the ways of life in China and the U.S.
"We kind of have similar cultures because the two countries are both very diverse," he says. "For example, China has 56 different groups with different languages for each of them, so it's very multicultural. Also, basketball is a popular sport in China, and we get to see lots of American movies and TV shows like Spiderman and Captain America."
One difference, however, is the dynamic between students and instructors.
"In China, students have to call their instructors 'professor' and can't even say their last names," he explains. "It is more formal compared to here."
He has worked on campus in the Multicultural and International Services Office for Paige Ramsey-Hamacher. He has served as a receptionist, answering the phone and questions from international students, specifically assisting students from Asia. He says upon graduating with his bachelor's in economics, he hopes to work for his parents' business back in China.
"My parents run a metal products company," he says. "They make lots of metal products like security doors and iron doors."
In his free time, he likes to read and listen to rock and classical music.
Wise Words for Prospective Saint Leo International Students
Based on his first two years at the university, he offers up some helpful advice for international students who might be considering Saint Leo.
"Try to make friends," he says. "Also, know that the professors here are always willing to help you. They want to help you improve. Don't be afraid to talk."
The bottom line is that it feels like home for him.
"I feel very safe and comfortable here," he confides.
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Ci Song and is used with permission.