News and Events
Yuan Fang Brings Chinese Student Group and New Year Celebration to Pepperdine
Seaver College junior Yuan Fang commemorated Chinese New Year in a special way this year—by hosting, along with Pepperdine’s new Chinese Student Union, a New Year’s celebration on campus.
The Spring festivals associated with Chinese New Year are some of the traditions Fang has missed most since leaving his childhood home in Wuhan City, China, to study in the United States. Now, Fang is bringing these traditions to Pepperdine, and sharing his culture with the University community.
Located along the Changjiang River and close to the famous Three Gorges, Wuhan City is the third biggest city in China and the biggest in central China. Fang began his college career there before moving to Northwestern Polytechnic University in Silicon Valley to study computer science as part of an exchange program.
In October 2005, Fang, now an economics major, transferred to Pepperdine to take advantage of the smaller class sizes and higher level of classroom interaction. "Pepperdine offers me tons of opportunities," he notes. "I like it here. The people are nice, and I enjoy the care of our small community."
Nevertheless, Fang says it has been a challenge to adjust to the mindset of a Christian liberal arts program after attending two technological universities. Although he does not consider himself a Christian, Fang appreciates the ideas and perspective that Christianity contributes.
He considers the "solid general education" required at Pepperdine to be the biggest adjustment, especially in studying humanities. "It takes time for me to get used to them since I didn’t study at a U.S. high school," Fang explains. "However, it gives me strong background of U.S. culture and experience."
Now Fang’s goal is to return the favor by providing students at Pepperdine the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture. Fang initiated a Chinese student union last semester when he learned that the University did not already have such an organization.
"When I found out, I thought ‘I should do this.'" Feeling indecisive, Fang was recommended to talk to Vice Chancellor Mike Warder. "He encouraged me to go ahead with it," Fang recalls.
Warder remembers: "I told him to do it, and that starting a club would be very helpful for the growing number of Chinese students at Pepperdine. They can help each other succeed here."
The new Chinese Student Union, known as CUSP, now has seven officials and 20 members on the roster. On facebook.com, a social networking Web site, the group has shot up to more than 60 members since last month’s Chinese New Year celebration.
"I really like it because before there were not a lot of Chinese activities here," says freshman Kaileen Kelly, who serves as the CSUP delegate to the Inter Club Council. "It’s a good opportunity to let people know about Chinese culture."
Fang agrees, adding that the purpose of the group is threefold: to create a cohesive Chinese community at Pepperdine; to provide a forum for students enrolled in Chinese language courses and anyone else who is interested in learning more about Chinese culture and language; and to help incoming Chinese students find a way to get involved on campus.
"This is our responsibility to do this for them," Fang remarks. "Even though we don’t have a really large number of Chinese students at Pepperdine, I still consider Chinese students as a very big and very unique group. We need some of our culture to stand out here." Warder concurs: "It would be terrible not to collaborate with these wonderful future leaders of China."
Fang says he chose, with the encouragement of his family, to take advantage of the opportunity to come to the United States for this very reason. "The U.S. is always the number one choice for Chinese students, since it is the most powerful and developed country."
According to Fang, an only child, being so far from his family is the most challenging aspect of life in the United States. Though he has not yet been home since coming to the United States more than 18 months ago, he plans to visit home for Christmas 2007.
"My parents are so proud of every step of progress that I have made so far," Fang says. "They also have great expectations of my bright future," which has moved beyond his childhood aspirations. "As a kid, my dream was to someday play in the NBA and become a super star," Fang recalls. "I was on school basketball team and we won the Championship title of Wuhan City in junior high school."
More recently, Fang’s dream has shifted to include graduate school in the United States and a career in international trade, with the hopes of traveling around the world.
Meanwhile, Fang continues to look ahead for the CSUP, and is already planning to host similar events next year, including another New Year’s Celebration. "Since this was the first event, our goal was to help people become familiar with and interested in us," Fang says. "Later on, we can do similar events so that we can create this tradition at Pepperdine."
by Cara Van Meter