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A stranger among friends
Chinese college student reflects on her first year in Gainesville
Xiaoding Wu of Zhengzhou, China, speaks about her experience this year at Brenau University. Wu will return to Brenau University in the fall after spending her summer at home in China. - photo by Tom Reed


Xiaoding Wu, a Chinese student at Brenau University, talks about her long-term plans.

It can still be a small world, even in heavily populated China.

Living in Zhengzhou in central China, Xiaoding Wu was planning her future college studies when a colleague of her mother suggested Brenau University.

"He came here before and he knows what it's like here, and he said you would like that school," said Wu, 22. "I applied to several other universities, as well, from Australia, New Zealand and Sweden even."

Wu ended up choosing the Gainesville-based school, and in her first year she has turned into one of its top ambassadors.

She has joined Students in Free Enterprise, a business club that develops community outreach projects that involve market economics, success skills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business ethics.

Brenau's SIFE team competed last week in its first national competition at the SIFE USA National Exposition in Chicago, after an unexpected win over the much larger, better-financed Brigham Young University in regional competition in Orlando, Fla.

And she has participated in an international students club and worked at the campus radio station, WBCX-FM. Her work there includes an interview with a college dean and a public-service message concerning economies in China and the U.S.

"I think the thing that has impressed me most about Xiaoding is the fact that she has shown such a willingness to learn and to understand, not only the principles of her business courses and classes, but also facets of our culture and economy that go a little bit deeper and broader than what is normally evidenced by first-year students," said Ted Garner, media services director for Brenau's department of mass communication.

Wu, whose home in China is about four hours by train from the capital of Beijing, said adjusting to life in the states has been "quite hard ... because of the cultural differences."

"Everything has been so different, especially language and food," she added. "... Back home, we have a very different set of values. People back home are maybe not as open as people here."

But, after time, she said she has grown comfortable with a new set of friends.

Also, "my teachers ... have been so helpful in both my studies and my life, so I really am very grateful for that," Wu said in an interview before she returned to China for the summer.

She plans to work in an internship at an elevator repair company in her hometown.

Wu plans to return to Brenau in the fall as a junior, continuing her pursuit of a bachelor's degree in business management.

Afterward, "I would like to get some work experiences here in the United States," she said. "I would really love to continue my graduate studies at Brenau, and after that, I'll probably go back to China.

"After all, that's where all my relatives are."

She said her "ultimate goal in life is to open a business school in China that can work together with the United States."

Wu said the booming Chinese economy has run into a conflict with the ancient Confucian belief that money is evil.

"People talk about money all the time," she said.

"I just want to educate the youth ... to learn about how money works and basically about financial literacy, and to equip themselves with necessary skills to succeed in their future endeavors."

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