Yijun Zhang, who prefers his American name, Crescent, is a senior international business major from the Guangdong Province in Guangzhou City, China. Crescent came to Harding in 2016 through “2+2”, a program that connects Chinese students to American universities for the final two years of their undergraduate studies. Crescent transferred to Harding after studying at the Guandong University of Foreign Studies, where he took general education classes.
Crescent said he hopes to use his international business degree to pursue work that involves traveling between America and China. Crescent’s ideal job, however, would be to work for Nintendo.
According to Crescent, life in Searcy is slower than in big cities. After his move from Guangzhou City, Crescent said he was surprised by the friendliness of his Searcy peers and the presence of Harding’s other residents.
“We were amazed that we could see squirrels and rabbits on campus, and [we said], ‘Wow, that’s amazing!’” Crescent said, adding that animals were rarely seen at his former university.
West Ling, director for Chinese student life, said he has enjoyed watching Crescent integrate into Harding’s campus life.
“[He is] always positive to the other Chinese students,” Ling said. “Some Chinese students have questions — both academically or student-life side. They go to talk to Crescent, and they always get good answers from him.”
Steve Shaner, assistant professor of communication, is Crescent’s “American father.” Shaner first met Crescent on a trip to China. Today, Shaner and his family participate in a program that matches Chinese students with American families to provide them with a “home away from home.”
“He’s such a likable, friendly, loving guy that I think whoever meets him has a great impression of him,” Shaner said. “If he can unintentionally say, ‘I’m from China, and people in China are like me,’ I think we leave his presence with a better opinion of Chinese people.”
“逸君说一个非常可爱友好而且有爱的人，我觉得每个见到他的人都会对他有一个很好的印象。”Shaner说，“如果他不经意间说： ‘ 我来自中国，而且中国人民都像我一样’ 我觉得这会给大家留下一个对中国人民更好的印象。”
To other international students, Zhang said he suggests forming meaningful relationships with American students. Not only do those relationships offer international students opportunities to improve their oral English, Zhang said, but they also lead to experiences the students may never be able to have somewhere else.
“It’s the perfect environment for not-native speakers to learn English … and get involved in life here. I visited my friend in Minnesota, and we went ice fishing, went trap shooting — a lot of things that can only be done in the United States,” Zhang said.
Zhang said he encourages American students to participate in activities arranged by international students, including those put on by Chinese students, as well as those put on by other international student groups at Harding; however, Zhang added that the best way to get to know another culture is to experience it first-hand.
“If you want to know the real … Chinese culture, you still need to go to that country. And get involved in local life — and that’s the same for Chinese students here in the United States.”