Adjusting to university life can be difficult for students, especially when moving to a country with an unfamiliar culture. A new language needs to be learned and classes can be difficult—as can turning unknown classmates into friends.

Cynthia Wardhana tackled challenges just like these when coming to Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University from her native Indonesia. After feeling “very afraid” early on, she now feels confidence and has a better grasp on her future.

Wardhana just graduated with a BSc Environmental Science degree.

“At the University, they have a lot of people to help us students,” Wardhana said. “I was very relieved that the University actively helps new students and tries to get us comfortable with the whole situation.”

From confusion to confidence

Wardhana began making friends at the school canteen and the yoga and environmental issues clubs she joined. A turning point for her confidence and comfort at XJTLU came after a meeting with a school counsellor.

“I was confused and disoriented in the first few months,” she said. “I decided that I should meet with a professional. I made an appointment with the counsellor, and it has changed my life.”

The counsellor helped Wardhana learn how to handle difficulties and upset feelings in a more positive way, she said.

Wardhana, now 21, said she has matured into a self-reliant, more proactive woman, as shown in her classroom participation.

“I now can say, ‘I don't agree with that; can we do it another way?’ It’s really made me feel very free. I don't bottle up my emotions anymore. I’ve also learned to just live — not be so uptight and to enjoy life.”

The challenges of a pandemic

Her increased confidence helped her better handle life as a student during the Covid-19 pandemic. The experience taught her the value of adaptability, she said.

Learning online from her home in Indonesia was initially a fun, new experience. But remote education became more challenging in her second semester when classes became more difficult.

Caring and understanding teachers helped ease students’ classroom experience.

“We set up private meetings with teachers to talk about our problems,” Wardhana said. “It was hard, but thankfully everyone was very supportive. I'm grateful because the school tried its best, especially my academic advisor. He really helped me through it all.”

Lessons learned

Wardhana’s life lessons shape her advice for new XJTLU students. Relax, she says, and let go of the stress of university life. Study hard, but also make friends and find a hobby or two.

When Wardhana looks ahead, she thinks about pursuing a master’s degree or possibly working for a non-governmental organis ation, perhaps fulfilling her passion for environmental conversation.

“My hope for the future is just to be useful for people and the world.”

By Robert Fraass
Editorial support by Huan Zhu

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