A long journey here: International student Xinyi Liu


Xinyi Liu (center) sits with friends before an International Students club meeting.

Imagine moving to a different country all by yourself, leaving your family and friends, living with a random host family, and only getting to see your loved ones about twice a year. That is exactly what 20-year-old Harper student Xinyi Liu did four years ago.

Back in China, Liu has a family she sees only about once or twice a year. Her 5-year-old brother, Yichen, barely remembers her when she visits.

“That’s the one thing that’s kind of depressing because I left him when he was like 1-year-old, so we are not close,” Liu said softly. “Every time I go back to China he is always like, ‘Oh I don’t like you. Go back to America’ or something like that.”

Xinyi traveled to the United States at 16 years old from her hometown, Xi’an. She traveled the long journey all alone, with English as her second language and Mandarin as her first, not knowing what her new life waiting for her in America would be like.

Once she arrived to the United States, she was anxious and ambitious for adventure. But alongside the excitement  came setbacks. She was placed with a bad host family who made her experience in America traumatic, Lui described.

“I feel they didn’t care about me, and always left me home alone,” Lui said.

Furthermore, the host family only ate unhealthy food, according to Lui. When Lui asked for vegetables, they denied her and told her to buy her own even though her mother  already paid the family for her food and groceries.

“I just feel like they didn’t give me enough care and trust,” Xinyi said with a sigh.

While feeling isolated by her host family, she was also trying to get accustomed to her small Christian high school–Hinsdale Adventist Academy.

Things started to look up for Lui when she was able to move in with a new host mother after graduating high school.

“She’s a super super nice woman who is single treats me like her own daughter,” Lui described.

Today, Liu is president of the International Students Club at Harper College.

She originally joined the group to meet friends and to include it on her resume. Most of her current friends are from this club and she realized there were more students similar to her who also traveled across the world to go to school in America. They also have English as their second language and could all relate to one another.

It turned out she really enjoyed the club and was encouraged by the members to become president. In order to become president, Liu ran against six other men for the title. She said she won because of her plans for the club’s progress.

As president, she is determined to start learning about other cultures by focusing on different countries each week.

“One week we learn about South Africa, then the next about China, and then North America,” she explained.

Lui is anxious to put her plan into play, but excited to have the club members learn more about the different countries their friends are all from.

Her friends described her as friendly and outgoing and always laughing. She can be found serving at Starbucks in building D with a big smile on her face – most of the time.

Xinyi is looking to transfer after Spring 2019 to either U of I or Ohio State with a business or communications major.