By JENNY BRYAN/Montana State News
Yin YaLan pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and stuck her tongue out in deep thought. For every question that was asked of her, she had about 15 of her own, immensely curious how any writing can truly capture the personality of someone.
Once her own curiosity had been sated, she began telling stories of her childhood, complete with exaggerated arm movements and pauses for fits of giggles.
Yin, who goes by the chosen American name Tina, was born in Changing in the HuNan Province of China, or as she stated, “just tell them it is the south part.” She has two sisters and grew up with her parents, although their relationship was very strained.
“Like, for example, I only called them Aunt and Uncle until when I was 18,” Yin said. “Then they were Mom and Dad, but before then, just Aunt and Uncle.”
Yin said that she got into trouble a lot when she was younger. She skipped school often, and even admitted to drinking from a very young age. According to icap.org, before 2006, there was no minimum drinking age in the Republic of China. Yin said that even then, it was rarely enforced.
“I was a bad kid,” she said simply.
However, in her last year of high school everything changed. Her older sister offered to have Yin move in with her and transfer schools in order to “start over.” On the precipice of adulthood, and realizing she needed to change, Yin accepted and started to study very hard.
“I wanted to go to college because I thought, ‘what else can I do?’” she said. “So, I must study very hard.”
After two years of sleepless nights and incessant studying, her test scores were finally high enough to get into a university. She started attending Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in 2011. After more years of study and intense exams to prove her English-speaking abilities, she became an exchange student early in 2014. In May of 2015, she graduated with a degree in plant protection. After that, she officially transferred to Montana State University and is now pursuing a second degree in computer science.
After her transfer, she moved into an apartment just outside of campus. A few friends came to help, and even with a completely empty apartment, she was an expert hostess. In order to keep her carpets looking clean, and keeping in the Chinese tradition, she insisted that everyone take off their outside shoes and wear house slippers. Of course, no one had brought any with them, so she brought out several pairs of brand new flip-flops.
After the move was complete she cooked a six course meal and sat to make sure everyone ate their fill. When someone started to slow down she held up her chopsticks, and mimed that they should continue, which made everyone laugh. Even before the furniture was in the apartment, her lively personality was enough to fill the room.
Yin is very involved outside of her classes as well. She is the president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) club, and is “trying her best to bring the Chinese culture to Bozeman.”
According to the CSSA Facebook page, the group holds free events every few months for MSU students. Their most recent was to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The club members made dinner and gave out presents to those in attendance.
“I desire to explore the world or find new experience,” she said. “In the end of this year, I will go to India to help the street children in a volunteer program for three weeks.”
“Studying abroad is a very unique experience. It’s fun, and it’s exciting. It makes you uncomfortable, which I think is a good thing. It makes you think, and really forces you to find out who you are,” said Liz Hurst, a MSU student who spent a semester in Japan. “Studying is twice as hard, and there’s so much you want to see so it can be really hard to focus.”
Yin is proud of how far she has come.
“I now study very hard,” she said. “Before I never had good grades. Now I study and I have a 4.0 for the first time in my life.”
“I feel bad now for the treatment of my parents, looking back. But you can’t change the past can you? But lots of people helped me. That’s why I work and study hard so I can do something for them in the future. That is my motivation,” Yin said. “I want to help people, it will make my life more meaningful I think.”
– Edited by Annie Wassan