Kexin Echo Zhang

Kexin Echo Zhang
Meet Kexin "Echo" Zhang

Zhang experiences the world in Nebraska

May 2, 2019 | by Courtney Van Hoosen

Before she even began college, Kexin “Echo” Zhang knew she wanted to study abroad. Now, after graduating from the Zhejiang University City College (ZUCC) Partnership Degree Program, she feels ready for a career in today’s global economy after her international experiences in Nebraska.

Growing up in southeast China outside of Shanghai, Zhang felt like she didn't have a lot of chances to meet new people or live in a new place. But when she found out that ZUCC had a Partnership Degree Program (PDP) with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Zhang immediately jumped at the opportunity to study in the U.S. After spending her first two years at ZUCC in China studying English and taking general credit courses, Zhang transferred to UNL where she completed her major-specific coursework in supply chain management and her American degree. Although she knew next-to-nothing about Nebraska before her arrival, Zhang wasn't worried about the transition as she received great support from the PDP's staff, one of whom is also a Nebraska alum.

"I was excited about studying abroad at UNL because it was my first time to be on an American continent, and I was always wondering how college life at UNL would be," said Zhang. "Our program coordinators always brought us some brochures about the on-campus events, and I was looking forward to interacting with people who are from the various cultural backgrounds."

echo Omani nightOnce she arrived to campus in 2016, Zhang said she felt welcomed by the community right away, from her interaction of international student leaders greeting her at the airport to the friendliness of the locals. Despite the fact that she was entering a new culture for the first time and didn't have much background on living in Lincoln, every person she met was kind and helped her find her place.

"I think my favorite thing about UNL would be the 'Nebraska Nice.' When I first came here, I didn't have much American knowledge and my English ability was super low. But I was never afraid to reach out for help because the people here are super nice and friendly, and they showed me this when they helped me out," explained Zhang.

Studying abroad in Nebraska, I was given a chance to meet new friends and interact with people all over the world, which was a unique experience for me.

Kexin "Echo" Zhang

Although she was welcomed to campus upon her arrival, Zhang said she isolated herself at first because she was afraid to go beyond her comfort zone. So, she decided to seek advice from a coordinator at the First Year and Transition Experiences office, Dan Hutt. Hutt was instrumental in encouraging Zhang to get involved on campus, giving her various suggestions of clubs to join, volunteering activities with local organizations, and university jobs. One of Zhang’s favorite memories, in fact, came from one of his suggestions: volunteering in the annual Culture Shock event organized by University Housing’s Intercultural Aides to introduce the campus community to the diversity of international cultures present in the student body.

“What immediately stood out about Echo was her fearless willingness to immerse herself in an unfamiliar culture and reap the benefits of new opportunities previously unavailable to her,” said Hutt. “Whether through one-on-one coaching, workshops, or conversation groups, Echo required very little prompting to get involved; she only needed awareness of the lay of the land at UNL, and she took it from there.  It didn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Echo very quickly leading other international students going through the same anxious and exciting challenges she experienced herself.”

Echo in Panama

As Zhang continued to explore the variety of involvement opportunities for her on campus, she realized a strong personal interest in multicultural backgrounds and cross-cultural communication after meeting people from around the world at UNL. During the summer of 2017, Zhang joined the International Welcome Team where she worked with students from various countries to help more than 500 incoming international students adapt to the American lifestyle and become familiar with campus resources. The same year, she participated in a two-week study abroad program over winter break to Panama where she and a team of UNL students presented their research about the American teakwood industry to potential local investors. The trip easily became another favorite memory as an opportunity to make new American friends who were eager to learn about her Chinese culture, in addition to exploring the Latin American culture.

“Being able to meet so many people from all over the world gave me the opportunity to understand the importance of cultural differences while communicating,” Zhang said. “From my past experiences, I became more passionate about learning global studies and improving my cross-cultural communication skills.”

Echo welcome team dinner

As her time in Nebraska comes to an end for now, Zhang is intent on continuing to explore her multinational interests in the future. In January 2020, Zhang will begin a master’s degree in Canada that specializes in international business, a program that she chose based on her interest in studying cultural differences. She also plans to translate her cross-cultural communication skills into her long-term career goal of working in a multinational enterprise.

 “I would definitely recommend ZUCC students [and others] to come to UNL,” said Zhang. “I feel very proud of being a Husker.”

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