Before entering UEE’s American Language Program (ALP) in 2010, Silvia Liu had never traveled outside China. Now, three years later, she has an MBA, a job in downtown Los Angeles, and calls Southern California her home.
This is never where she imagined she would end up. Liu was born and raised in the modestly sized (by Chinese standards) city of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia. She said it’s the kind of city people rarely leave; most families have been there for several generations. But with strong test scores and encouragement from her father, she left the city, first to a university in Beijing, then to America.
What initially attracted her to the United States were the increased opportunities for women. She believed her hard work and talent would be rewarded, and was impressed by the support system for women, such as societies of female entrepreneurs or programs to help them start their own companies.
But upon arriving, she was immediately impressed by more superficial attributes: “Southern California is so pretty. I loved the sunshine. I love the ocean. It’s great to be able to just go to the beach any weekend,” Liu said.
“Southern California is so pretty. I loved the sunshine. I love the ocean. It’s great to be able to just go to the beach any weekend."
In China, she had studied English in school, but never had the chance to practice conversation with a native speaker. That is why she singled out the American language partners she worked with in ALP’s Pre-MBA Program for being especially useful. Speaking with Americans not only helped her pick up the language quickly, but also adapt to a culture so different than her own.
“The cultural differences happen every day . . . no, every second,” Liu said. “But talking to Americans, becoming friends with Americans, helps you learn how to act in this culture.”
After six months in the ALP program, she entered Cal State Fullerton’s MBA program. Shortly before graduating in May 2013, she found work in Los Angeles, for a company that imports and exports goods to Asia. While she doesn’t know where the future will take her, she knows California is the right place for her now.
“I am taking on the best parts of American culture and keeping the best parts of Chinese culture. That’s how I have been able to grow and become a better person than when I first arrived.”