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USPP Pioneers Prepared to Graduate

Sherry Zhao
Sherry Zhao. (Photo: Sally McCay)

In the summer of 2010, 28 Chinese students came to UVM to pursue bachelor's degrees through a newly adopted U.S. Sino‐Pathway Program (USPP). When they came, the university enrolled but one Chinese national undergraduate, and she had attended high school in the States. The USPP students prepared for UVM over just nine months at private education centers in China, concentrating on English speaking and writing skills, American history and culture. Few had traveled outside of Asia and nearly all were single children at the center of families from cities of with populations of ten million plus. When they came to Burlington, they gave up proximity to doting parents, favorite festivals and foods, familiar currency and language – even their given names – to immerse in American university life.

On May 19, ten of these USPP pioneers will graduate as members of the UVM Class of 2013 with degrees in engineering (2), business (7), and film and television studies (1). UVM Today caught up with a few and asked each about their decision to study in the U.S., their experience at UVM, and where their sails are set for next.

Sherry (Si Wei) Zhao, the lone liberal arts major among the USPP soon-to-be graduates, is clear about her reasons for coming to Vermont. “It is so beautiful. And there were very few Chinese students at UVM, so I knew my English would improve,” Zhao says. “Also, I’m not strong in math or physics or chemistry, so the Chinese education system is not as good for me. Coming to the U.S. gave me more choice to follow my interests.” For Zhao that is television and film studies. She has also been a photographer for the Vermont Cynic and a member of the Lawrence Debate Union.

After graduation, Sherry will return to Shanghai. “I miss my mom and home a lot,” she says. “And working in the media industry is tough. I need to go where I have connections.” Zhao will knock on doors at companies like International Channel Shanghai, where she had an internship last summer. But in the meantime, she is wrapping up her senior project, a documentary focusing on contrasts between attitudes in her parents’ generation and her own around the decision to study and live abroad. She feels many from her parents’ era were eager to leave China in their youth and this has carried forward in encouragement, even pressure, for their children to study and remain abroad. Her own generation, Zhao feels, is more compelled to stay in China or return home soon after foreign travel and study. But of her decision to come to UVM, Sherry is also quick to say, “This is the most valuable three years that have happened in my last twenty years. And there are many things I am going to miss, like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and definitely my American friends.”

Other USPP graduating students echo Zhao’s feelings about UVM and about going home. However, return to China will not be as immediate or direct for them. Daniel (Xie-Cheng) Yuan, a business major also from Shanghai, just last week accepted a stockbroker position with Scottrade in the U.S. Yuan interned with the company, a 20-hour per week commitment, while taking a full course load during the past year. “I’ll definitely go home to China at some point, when I want to settle down,” Yuan says. “Right now the U.S. corporate culture is appealing because of the diversity I’ll get. I’m young,” he adds. “I still want to explore -- see other parts of the country. There is too much stuff I don’t want to miss.”

Two other business majors, Anna (Jing) Liu from Chengdu and Yeva (Xin) Luo from Chongqing, plan to enroll in a one-year business graduate study program at Bath University in the UK next fall before they head home for good. Both pursued concentrations in accounting and finance while at UVM; at Bath they will focus on human resources. The two best friends joke about starting chocolate and ice cream businesses when they return to China – like Zhao, they are fans of Ben & Jerry’s as well as Lake Champlain Chocolates. Reflecting on what they have gained during the past three years at UVM, both agree they are more confident, able, and adaptable, acknowledging the Confucian thought, “They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”

In total, there are 185 fulltime international undergraduate students currently enrolled at UVM. Eighty-five are USPP students; twenty-three more will arrive on campus this summer. In addition, there are 44 international undergraduate exchange students.