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In this new student profile series, I will be interviewing current students at universities around the country. In this first installment, we’ll hear from Songyang, a freshman from China at Texas A&M University. She tells us about her impressions of Texas, student life, her classes, and the cultural differences she has observed going to college in the US.
College: Texas A&M University
Class: Freshman (Class of 2017)
Why did you choose Texas A&M?
Texas A&M has strong engineering programs and at the time when I applied for colleges, I was highly interested in Computer Engineering. Moreover, I was deeply fascinated by the southern environment and the somewhat exotic culture when I traveled to Texas.
What do you like/dislike about attending a large public university?
Being a huge public school with sufficient funds, A&M provides students with numerous fantastic academic and extracurricular activities. However, I simply do not have enough time and energy to explore every opportunity offered to me, and the choice can be extremely difficult.
Did you experience any culture shock in the United States? If so, what?
Americans love to compliment on other people and they typically expect “Thank you!” as a response while in China it’s unusual to give compliments, and willingly accepting a compliment may be considered condescending.
What do you think of Texas? Do you think this is a good area of the country to attend college?
College Station, TX is to some extent excluded from the outside world and therefore offers a great academic environment. On the other hand, it is not too remote so we still have access to the appealing city life.
What are the biggest cultural differences between China and the United States. And specifically, what are the biggest cultural differences regarding the approach to college and the university experience?
Chinese people pay excessive attention to grades and students are under tremendous pressure to perform well academically. In China the most common approach to college is the awfully competitive National College Entrance Examination (Gaokao). The grade one receives is the only criteria for getting into a college; in other words, one’s life path is largely determined by one exam.
Therefore, the American education system appears to be much more balanced and thus attracts an increasing number of Chinese students who desire to pursue a well-rounded development.
What are the most popular extracurricular activities on campus? What are you involved in? What are some of the interesting things your friends are involved in?
Fish Camp is a must for freshmen—it gives us an opportunity to make more friends and learn more about A&M while having great fun!
I am a fiction editor for the literary magazine on campus and a member of the badminton club. Currently I’m trying to establish a food critique club with my friends.
What is the sports culture like? The reputation is the students love campus sports and going to the games is a huge part of the experience. Have you found this to be the case?
A&M students are fanatic about football—almost all my friends go to every single football game. I can hear the yell from about 2 miles away in my apartment!
Describe your social life in college.
People are extremely nice here. I get stopped 100 times by cordial students on my way from the bus stop to the academic building!
Describe a typical weekend at Texas A&M.
Getting crazy at the football game! Going out to dinner and watching a movie with friends. I also spend a couple of hours talking to my family in China and every once in a while I would cook some Chinese dishes.
What has your academic experience been like so far? Are your classes large lectures or small seminars or a mix? What have you thought about your professors? Were you able to register for your first choice classes?
I have three 200-people huge lectures and two small seminars. Most of the professors deliver fantastic lectures and they make the unexciting basic materials more appealing. And they are always more than willing to help us! I was able to register for most of my first choice classes but the computer science class was packed.
What is your favorite class?
French is undoubtedly my favorite class! First of all I have always longed to study this elegant language. Additionally our professor is amazing—she makes her lecture greatly entertaining. She would talk about the captivating French culture and customs and let us practice speaking French in class.
What do you think of Texas A&M’s campus and the surrounding area?
A&M’s has a humongous campus! Fortunately most of my classes are held in Central Campus so I can walk, but I have to take a bus for my Econ class.
There is a school bus that takes us to downtown Bryan but students tend to stay in College Station during the weekdays. College Station has many great restaurants, a theater and a shopping mall, so most of the time it can satisfy our needs. We do leave campus for shopping, movies and other entertainments.
A&M does not have enough dorms so a lot of students actually live off campus, but the bus system is convenient and we can generally get to campus within half an hour.
Describe your housing experience? What is your dorm and room like and do you have a roommate? How has that been?
I live in a furnished 3-bedroom apartment off campus but I only have one roommate who is Vietnamese.
What other housing options are there for upperclassmen (e.g. townhouses, fraternities/sororities, off-campus housing). What do you think of the housing options in general?
Actually freshmen do not have to live on campus simply because there are not enough dorms! Many students live in off-campus apartments. Fraternity/Sorority houses are also always an option.
What are the most awesome parts of Texas A&M?
I am simply fascinated by how many wonderful opportunities A&M has to offer! And Aggies are always extremely affable.
What has been the worst part of Texas A&M?
Some A&M students are somewhat blindly arrogant and they believe that with a degree from A&M, they can go anywhere.
What are some of the things you think Texas A&M does really well?
Texas A&M has an awesome Aggie Networking which can be helpful for building one’s personal career network. A&M also offers basically all the courses you can possibly be interested in (except for drawing and music performance) and is generous regarding scholarships and financial aid.
Have Texas A&M’s financial aid policies influenced you? Did they play a role in your decision to come? Have you been satisfied with the tuition and aid?
A&M offered me a scholarship with an out-of-state tuition waiver, which I am extremely grateful for.
What kind of person do you think would do the best at Texas A&M?
One who desires for numerous opportunities and at the same time knows how to make the most informed decision and to resist temptations.
Of course, one has to be able to stand the unbelievable heat and dryness here in Texas!!
What advice would you give to high school students abroad considering the United States for college regarding choosing the right school, admissions, and adjusting to our university system and culture?
Please do not choose a university simply for its name! You will not be happy at a prestigious place that does not truly suit you.