Interview with Pitt to You Mentees and Ambassadors

By Qinnuo (Emma) Li, Asian Studies Center International Associate

With the new cohort of Chinese international students arriving to the University of Pittsburgh for the 2019-2020 academic year, the Pitt to You program is currently in its second phase. Pitt to You, which connects student ambassadors who serve as mentors to international Chinese students, fosters cultural exchange and adjustment for those transitioning to college abroad.

In September, ambassadors and their mentees had a reunion at the William Pitt Union (WPU). Since the mentees have been at Pitt, their ambassadors have introduced them to the campus lifestyle, introduced them to friends, and shown them around Pittsburgh. During the reunion, our international associate, Emma, and Pitt to You program coordinator, Bliss, conducted a few brief interviews between ambassadors and their mentees to learn about both sides’ experiences. The following interviews have been edited for clarity.

Kai Lin Lee, a pre-med junior majoring in anthropology and political science and minoring in history, Kevin, a freshmen majoring in urban studies, and Fredrick, a freshman, are part of this year’s Pitt to You cohort. Kai Lin Lee is Kevin and Fredrick’s ambassador.

What did you enjoy the most about your trip to China?

Kai Lin: It was so incredible to meet so many new students that would soon be attending Pitt. Traveling aboard was incredible, too. Getting to visit the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and other historical sites was amazing.

What was the biggest challenge in China?

Kai Lin: The biggest challenge was definitely not having great connection to cellular data and internet. If we weren’t paying attention to the signs around us, we easily got lost. I also tried to sharpen my Chinese reading skills during the trip, which was challenging yet rewarding.

What did you find most helpful about the Pitt to You program in China?

Fredrick: The Pitt to You program allowed me to preview the campus and school life. I was also able to develop some basic understanding about how college works in the United States, which allowed me to stay ahead during the school year. Guidance and help from upperclassmen, especially as a freshman, was useful, too.

Kevin: For me, being able to meet these mentors and faculty members before we arrived at Pitt helped a lot. It allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the college environment and neighborhood.

What is your biggest challenge at Pitt so far?

Fredrick: There are so many activities that you can participate in on campus! It’s very difficult to make a choice of what clubs to join and how exactly to immerse myself.

Kevin: For me, it’s difficult to find where the elevators are in each building. At Pitt, they’re always hidden behind some huge pillar, so I often unknowingly pass by them.

As part of the Pitt to You program, what are you most looking forward to this semester?

Kevin: I think more activities, especially ones that allow me to hangout with friends and explore the city more.

Fredrick: Yeah, I agree. Our mentor introduced us to a lot in the city and the school, but personally, I don’t have enough free time to explore these areas in-depth. It would be great if we could get together sometime in the future.

Kai Lin: Yeah, following those ideas, I am super excited to take you guys to interesting places, like art museums and a shooting range. Whenever you guys want to know more about the city – even small local attractions – we can check them out!

Eryn McCormick, a senior majoring in industrial engineering and minoring in economics, David Wu, a freshman, and Zhen Wu, a freshman majoring in computer science are part of the current Pitt to You cohort. Eryn McCormick is David and Zhen’s ambassador.

What did you enjoy the most about your trip to China?

Eryn: I really enjoyed immersing myself within a new culture, learning about China’s architecture, and learning about its history. It was great to see the Forbidden City. However, my favorite days were whenever I was able to hang out with my mentees, get to know them, and explore all these sites with them, as well. I also really enjoyed the food – I liked the soup dumplings a lot!

What was the biggest challenge in China?

Eryn: The biggest challenge was trying to adjust to the food and the public transportation system, which was a little tough. Overall, there’s little nuances and trying to figure them out was the toughest situation I went through.

What did you find most helpful about the Pitt to You program in China?

David: The most helpful thing is probably getting to know some freshmen and upperclassmen in advance, befriending them, and staying in contact with them. Through this, they were able to give us suggestions on how to adjust to the school before we arrived and helped us feel more comfortable.

Zhen: Yeah, I had the same idea – getting to know more people and make more friends helped a lot. It allowed me to feel more familiar with the school, the city, and culture here.

What is your biggest challenge at Pitt so far?

David: My biggest challenge is arriving to class on time, especially for those held in different buildings because some are very far from each other. I am not used to it yet – you know, running a mile in 10 minutes in 10 AM in the morning [laughs].

Zhen: What’s difficult part for me is finding the right directions to go to classes every day. I’ll often have to use Google Map.

As part of the Pitt to You program, what are you most looking forward to this semester?

Zhen: I think I’m most looking forward to exploring the school and the city more. By familiarizing myself with the area, especially the campus and its resources, I can find out what I like academically and find the right track for myself.

David: I’m most excited about attending more events with my group and hanging out with them more.

Eryn: I am looking forward to not only continuing getting to know my mentees but everyone else in the program, as well. There are some cool events coming up, such as the annual Light Up Night in downtown. That would be very cool to show them.

I was an RA last year, and I missed having the opportunity to program events for people. I am looking forward to constructing events for me and my mentees to do. I am thinking of hosting a little dinner at my house in a couple of weeks to let them relax and hang out and talk to them about how things are going.