Group helps Chinese coming to U

The student group is the largest Chinese student organization at the University.

Neil Munshi

Every year, the Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars helps new students directly from China get acclimated to life in the United States.

The student group, founded in 1984, is the largest Chinese student organization at the University and one of the largest in the nation, said Haiyan Jia, the group’s president and a plant pathology graduate student.

The group has more than 800 registered members and 3,000 subscribers to its listserv.

“We help the new students and scholars that come from China and try our best to pick them up at the airport or find some temporary housing for them,” she said.

This year, the group helped between 50 and 70 new Chinese students begin classes at the University, Jia said.

After receiving e-mails from incoming students, the group sends e-mails to its members to find someone to pick the new students up at the airport.

Secretary Guihong Chen, an economics graduate student, said she then contacts local Christian church groups to find host families to house the students for a week while they find a place to live.

Civil engineering graduate student Yuejian Cao said that he arrived in the United States in August and was placed in a host family’s home immediately while he searched for an apartment.

“They are great for helping the new students here, because once we come here, for most of us, it’s the first time in the U.S., and we don’t know how to find a house or an apartment,” he said.

Each year, the group holds various events and alerts its members about them via a mass e-mail sent Thursdays, Chen said.

Subscribers to the listserv include local Chinese community members, Chinese students and Americans who want to learn more about Chinese culture, Jia said.

Events include a midautumn festival, a spring festival, picnics, parties, dances and sports tournaments, Chen said.

Also, the group invites scholars to come speak at symposiums and lectures, Jia said.

At the beginning of each semester, the group holds a welcome event in which new students, host families and established members can get to know one another and become more used to life in the United States.

The group also participates in the Minnesota State Fair, where it has put on traditional Chinese fashion, dance and calligraphy shows in the last three years, Jia said.

“Twenty years ago, there were only 60 Chinese students total at the University,” Jia said. “Now, you can see us everywhere.”