Last semester, I went to the program manager at Office of International Affairs with hostility and suspect asking her what the international undergraduate student surcharge is used for.
Before I went to her, I signed an online petition to accuse Ohio State of wrongfully charging this extra fee to international students.
Six months later, I am sitting in my room writing this article because I was irritated when I saw someone called the surcharge “racism” and God knows how much I want to say thank you to OIA.
Exactly two years ago, I was having a hard time trying to talk to my American classmates and I was totally sweating when I was talking to my academic adviser, whom I should not have been scared of at all.
But now I have so many American friends I have little social trouble.
Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Muyao Shen and I’m from China. I am one of the thousands of international students at OSU.
I am here not to speak if it is right or reasonable for OSU to charge us an extra fee since we are paying so much already. And I am here not to write about if OSU made the wise choice to give more and more offers to international students to earn more profits. But I am here to tell you the story how I see OIA used the money and changed my life.
To those who don’t know anything about international student surcharge, it is $500 fee paid by international students, which was passed by the Board of Trustees during the summer of 2012.
The funding provides for additional resources for international students and supplements study abroad programs.
And my story started after I had been at OSU for two semesters, when I was doubting if I made the right choice to come to the U.S.
At that time, I still couldn’t talk to my American classmates. I thought they were judging me for my accent, my face and frankly, my race.
“What is the difference between me going to a college in China and this?” I asked myself and my Chinese friends.
Things started to change when I began to participate English Conversation Partners Program, which is sponsored by international undergraduate student surcharge.
This program matches U.S. American students with international students who would like to learn more about the American language and culture. We get to hang out with one or two American students weekly and do some big events too.
My American partner is a woman who went to study abroad in China before. Every time when we hung out, we learnt so much about each other.
Though we did not end up being great friends, the key she was holding means everything to me: Americans are just like us. They are not stupid. They are not scary. They are not racists.
This key opened the door and showed me a new world.
I decided to apply to be a Global Ambassador at OIA. I didn’t know much about it but I thought I would give it a try anyway.
As a Global Ambassador, we host something called Global Engagement Night every Tuesday. It involves half domestic and half international students to engage in weekly conversations on a variety of themes. It is the place you really walk out of your comfort zone and start to know people more and more. Every time when you are at Global Engagement Night, you would hear all the weird questions without any judgments.
“Do you have four seasons in your country?”
“Why do you get an English name when you came to America?”
“Do American students treat relationships just like what they do in the movie, ‘Mean Girls?’”
“Are American really not good at calculus?”
I have had the opportunity to see so many times when someone leave Global Engagement Night with more friendships and understandings and fewer stereotypes.
And without the surcharge, we would not have Global Engagement Night.
The use of International Undergraduate Student Surcharge has been the biggest part of my college experience.
Things always get better when you start to talk.