*Jane, a Chinese graduate of the Ohio State University, was often away from home as she grew up.
“When I went to middle school, I was in a boarding school: you can go back home every week. In my high school, I went to Shanghai and I went back home every month. I think that my parents threw me into a more independent situation compared to other kids.”
These experiences helped Jane develop her relationship building skills and a sense of independence. And when she came to the US, these skills served her well; but there were other challenges she needed to overcome.
Jane needed a place to live while she waited to move into her dorm. She reached out to another Chinese student attending OSU. She referred Jane to IFI.
“She said ‘you're going to another country and living in a stranger's home for free.’ Is it safe?” Jane wondered.
Both Jane and her parents had their concerns. But after researching IFI and asking more students about what they had heard or experienced, Jane and two other Chinese students decided to sign up for an IFI host family.
“It's just very lucky that we connected with the Foell family. I didn't speak very perfect English, but they could still understand me pretty well. They treated us so well. I feel maybe if I was hosted by someone else I might not have gotten the same experience. I feel like they're my home in Columbus. They're a huge part of my life.”
Her time with the Foells helped make Jane’s transition to living in the U.S. more smooth and enriching. Her desire to build relationships also pushed her to take advantage of the opportunities and activities that IFI and OSU offered. She was especially impacted during IFI Bible studies.
“I feel like a lot of the stories, they're very inspiring. So I think that every time I'm in Bible study, I can learn something and reflect on what I was doing in the past.”
For her first two years, Jane felt very comfortable with her life in the U.S. But as her senior year approached, she began to feel overwhelmed.
She was struggling to meet all the requirements for graduation, and she felt increasing pressure from her personal relationships to excel and achieve academically.
“I was a mess. I was literally feeling so sad every day and calling my parents, crying to them every day.”
During this time, her involvement with IFI had decreased: she was not attending IFI activities, or talking to the Foell family, all due to a singular focus of getting the best grade possible.
“But then I felt like, one day, ‘maybe I should go to Bible study,’ and that Bible study really helped me a lot. I was talking to some people from that Bible discussion, and we talked about my future, not just like my life, but also my job. It helped me so much and after that, I became much better. It's interesting that when you're in the challenges, you feel like life is so hard, but once you overcome it, they're just like marks on the sand; they will be washed away by the waves very quickly.”
Jane graduated from OSU two years ago, beginning her career as an accountant. But she will never forget how IFI and her host family helped her, and how it can help others.
“There are definitely a lot of international students who might face similar challenges but can't find a way. They don't have opportunities to interact with IFI or meet very nice people. So they might miss home or might be just focused on academics. I would definitely recommend them to go to the activities by IFI because it's just a very welcoming environment. You can interact with all other international students…you see the world in a different way.”