Ruiting Gong is currently a graduate student studying counseling at Northern State University. She first came here as an exchange student from Shanghai University during her final year of her undergraduate study in 2012 and 2013.
Unlike many American students, Gong started learning her second language—English— in third grade. By the time she first came to America, she had been studying English for fifteen years. Yet, she said that she truly learned the most about the English language and American culture by immersing herself into it through her experiences. Before beginning her exchange program, Gong attended a month-long language program at a university in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her experience there helped her immensely when she first came to NSU. Northern State became a place of welcome and comfort to Gong during her first year here, and it was because of Northern’s supportive community and the close relationships she made there that she chose to come back for her graduate student.
Northern’s student community “is very diverse, and it forces you to be with students from other countries – not just your own.”
– Ruiting Gong, NSU Graduate Student
So far, some of her most enjoyable moments at NSU have been getting to share her culture at Culturefest and the experiences she shared with her host family as an exchange student. Another aspect of Northern’s student community that Gong enjoys is its diversity. She says that, “it’s very diverse, and it forces you to be with students from other countries – not just your own.” Gong is currently a GA with the Confucious Institute. She says the program has been a huge help to her and future exchange students, as it is reaching out to new schools with exchange programs. She is also an intern at O. M. Tiffany elementary school. After graduating with her counseling degree, Gong hopes to become an elementary school counselor in the United States. Her experience with O.M. Tiffany has been yet another enjoyable learning opportunity for Gong. “It’s so interesting to learn a different education system.” Gong is also thrilled to see that the students at O.M. Tiffany are excited to learn about China. The staff is also supportive, and Gong says that it has been an excellent way for them to learn from each other. Gong hopes to encourage others to pursue an exchange program, especially American students. When asked about the worries of a language barrier, Gong says that it shouldn’t bother students. “In China, there are English signs and access to internet everywhere to help with directions and other things if you get lost.” When asked about advice she would give to students who may be hesitant to pursue an exchange program, Gong replied, “Be brave.” It certainly does take guts and determination to partake in an exchange program, and Gong has thoroughly enjoyed her experience and has learned an incredible amount as well as taught an incredible amount about her own language and culture to those she has encountered so far during her time in America.