Chinese students form group

The group aims to build a network for students from China, where university life is much different.

Justin Horwath

Sophomore Zhibin Zhang said she couldn’t find a community last year for undergraduate students from China at the University.

“You have stress when you totally depend on yourself,” she said. “Sometimes you feel like it’s unfair.”

So the pre-pharmacy and chemistry student from Beijing decided to bring her home country to Minnesota when she and two other Chinese students registered the Chinese Student Union on March 9.

“We wanted to take Chinese culture here,” she said. “You need a transition process.”

That process is not easy for Chinese students, said group cofounder Xue Bai, as the discrepancies between cultures are vast.

The group sees American students as independent, nothing like the rigid and structured relationships students typically have with parents and teachers in China.

where to go

CSU Dinner Night
what: Free chinese food provided by local restaurants; music and games
when: 6 p.m. Friday
where: North Star Ballroom, St. Paul Student Center

“The education system is different,” Bai, a math sophomore, said about the United States. “You’re looking after yourself totally, so you’re completely independent.”

Along with creating a network for Chinese students at the University, Zhang said she hopes to combat the misunderstandings Americans might have about Chinese culture.

However, there are other campus groups with similar missions.

The Chinese American Student Association also looks to bring together the Chinese community through cultural events, and treasurer David Chang said he was a little confused when he heard the union was formed.

“I’ve noticed a drop-off in membership,” he said about his group. “I might have some questions for them and hopefully we’ll be able to work something out.”

The finance and entrepreneurship senior said the association has seen membership as high as 60 to 80 students in the past, almost double this year’s membership of less than 40.

The Chinese Student Union hasn’t opened its registration and sees only the officers at their meetings, Bai said.

“There’s plenty of groups out there,” Chang said. “If you’re really passionate about it, it’s hard to see another group that is pretty much hitting the same mission that we’re doing.”

But Bai said despite similarities in mission, the union will aim more at targeting undergraduate students coming from China as opposed to Chinese-American students, although it’s not exclusive.

“I think we’re focused on a different group of people,” she said. “CASA is more for American-born Chinese, not quite international students.”

Coordinator for educational programs and communications Jennifer Dunn wrote her dissertation on academic adjustment issues with Chinese students. She said when students come from China they often experience feelings of isolation and might not know of any networking organizations.

“It really doesn’t matter which organization, it matters what you do,” she said. “I think (if) the name sounds good or not, it doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything that helps the Chinese students.”