Annalise (standing, center, glasses) poses with her fellow Chinese PAX students upon arrival in 2013.

Orientation Memories

There are always those moments that are worth remembering forever, and my exchange days through PAX are definitely one of them. Other than my gratitude, there are so many more good things I would like to say about them.

The night before my very first flight to the United States, I was just like so many of you—so nervous and excited, but mostly unbelievably worried.

“What if I can’t understand a word they say?”

“What if I can’t make friends?”

“What if I get super homesick?”

These questions bothered me every night and made it nearly impossible to sleep.

However, when I finally met all these wonderful people in PAX, I finally was able to drop the weights in my chest. I felt so welcomed and all the other international students felt like my other family.

My days in New York were a blast. We were able to learn so much about the United States and at the same time have so much fun exploring. I remember on the tour bus my friend and I were talking to a student from Spain. I asked, “Is this your first time coming to America?” He could not understand me, so I repeated my question a couple times, but he still did not get what I was saying. I started to get self-conscious, because I thought my English wasn’t good enough for people to understand. He sensed that and comforted me saying, “Hey, it’s ok—I’m still getting used to the language too.” As he said it, he had the warmest smile on his face. After that, we started to teach each other our own languages and laughed till our faces were sore. I learned that day that language is never a barrier to having fun.

On the last day of the orientation, we had a goodbye dance party. Back then, I didn’t have any party experience, so my friend and I showed up wearing formal dresses. We felt so embarrassed at first, but the relaxing and free vibe loosened us up. We ended up having a great night in Qipaos (Chinese traditional gowns). The DJ was playing “Get Lucky” (by Daft Punk and Pharrell), and I truly felt I was so lucky to be in PAX and have the opportunity to see the world in this unique way with all these amazing people.

For those who may or will be involved with PAX programs, I’d like to say, “Congratulations,” because you will be amazed with the future that is waiting out there. You will experience the best parts of every culture through meeting students from all over the world, and—oh, don’t forget—do not hesitate to grab when they bring snacks from their home countries!

—Jiayuan Hu (Annalise), (2013/14, China), hosted by the Baker family (UT)