I definitely had some major culture shock my first year at Putney, but this year has been a lot better. For many of us international students, the language barrier is only one aspect. If you want to be able to integrate and make friends with domestic students, it’s also about learning the culture itself, learning cultural references. Just being integrated into the community has made it a lot easier. My advisor helped me a lot. She’s really familiar with the international student experience, so she was able to offer a lot of guidance.
The community here is also a lot different from my community at home. In China, your actions are guided by community expectations, but at Putney, you’re encouraged to be yourself, to find what you need and who you want to be. So rather than thinking about my family’s expectations or how I can fit into a community, here my thought is what can I bring to this community as me, as Jade, as an individual. It’s a really reverse way for me to think, but it’s helped me explore new things and myself.
For example, I love singing and I’ve pursued that here. I was in Madrigals and I take voice lessons from the music director—he’s really amazing. I’ve also started performing in plays and musicals. I was even Olivia in Twelfth Night. Putney has changed me tremendously in that regard. When I came to Putney, I was nervous on stage, but the whole environment here is non-judgmental. Whenever someone goes on stage and gives a speech, everyone gives this person a round of applause. This makes me feel comfortable to express myself as an individual, to not hide inside the community. Every person here has different experiences and different stories to tell, and if you’re willing to share that, the whole community is really excited.