By Angela Shen
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Although thousands of international students come to the United States to seek a better education every year, only a few fully understand the point of studying abroad. Most students are either confused about American culture or not prepared for the culture shock, so they rarely know how to take advantage of all the resources the University of Washington offers. In order to make international students’ journey in America more meaningful, educator Wei Zuo devotes herself to creating the bridge to help international students adapt. “I was in their shoes, so I know exactly what they are facing and having trouble with — I know they’d want someone to guide them through these obstacles,” said Zuo.
Zuo was an undergraduate from FuDan University, one of the top universities in China, majoring in journalism. After graduation, she joined New Oriental — one of the biggest English educational institutions in China, and worked as an English teacher for two years. In 2010, Zuo entered the University of Washington as an international student, with a goal toward master’s degree in education.
She had a lot of challenges when she first arrived. “Everything was different, I was a straight A student and when I came here, it was like a drop from the clouds to earth,” said Zuo. “I didn’t have a scholarship and didn’t know anybody, and I had to learn everything from scratch.” Zuo finally overcame these difficulties and impressively finished with three master’s degrees and one PhD degree in five years. Zuo said, “After I finished, I felt that it was important to share my story and help students who are still on their journey.”
In 2015, Zuo created a blog called “Doctor Zuo’s Study in the U.S.” and she started to write about her experiences and anecdotes that international students could benefit from, such as how to make friends in America, how to apply for a scholarship, how to decide on the right major, etc. “There are a lot of things people don’t know. For instance, when I first came to America, I didn’t know about community colleges. I think people could use community college as a stepping stone to their dream universities if they have access to that information,” Zuo said.
In addition to her blog, Zuo created an online streaming video where she invites guests to talk about issues and answer questions that viewers comment on simultaneously. “It’s an app called ‘Renren Jiang,’ which means ‘everybody talks’ in Chinese, and you download on your phone. Everyone has access to it, and they can watch and make comments,” said Zuo. “The main audiences are students who are going to study abroad and their parents, and people who are curious about living in America.”
Doctor Zuo and her team has uploaded 27 episodes so far. She is planning to continue doing this because this not only combines her interests and skills in journalism, communication, and education, but it helps international students adjust to life in a different country. “I have met a lot of great people, my mentors, my classmates, my colleagues, and my friends, who made me become the person I am today,” Zuo said. “It’s a way for me to pay it forward.”
Zuo recently published her first book titled “Study in the U.S.: A practical guide.” The book is a compilation of all the articles she wrote over the years and some of the episodes she made. It’s easy to decide to study abroad as an international student, but it’s hard to find the right balance in life. “My belief is to study hard, play hard. Not only to get a high GPA, but also make friends, keep fit, and enjoy life.” Zuo said.
Zuo can be reached at email@example.com.
Angela can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.