As an international student, I initially struggled to build a strong community at Fuqua. I am a curious person who seeks more personal connections. In the beginning, the difficulty in finding a balance between thinking about how people might view me and doing what I wanted made me a bit nervous. I was afraid of both being seen as a “stereotypical Asian” and putting too much pressure on myself to try something even if it made me uncomfortable. Eventually, I built a home at Fuqua and wanted to share my authentic self with my new community.

Here are some strategies that helped me find my place:

1. Connecting with my Section Mates

For first-year students, our sections are our home base. When I was nervous about presentations and participation in the discussions, I made an effort to get to know my section mates. Don’t be stressed about immediately getting to know them deeply, but having an interest in knowing them is a good start. This helped me feel more comfortable participating in class discussions

2. Being My True Self

In the beginning, I was hesitant to fully be myself, fearing I might be seen as “weird.” I love golf, cooking, and basketball, but always stopped myself not to doing those things. My golf score is not good, I cannot cook very fancy meals, and I’m too short to play basketball. However, my friends encouraged me to pursue my interests regardless of my skill level. Letting my true self shine helped me feel at home.

3. Embracing New Experiences

Trying new things and adapting to different cultures with my friends was a bonding experience. From a big birthday party hosted with other international students in the summer term to camping out for Duke basketball tickets, playing golf every week, we have experienced countless social and sports events together. A sushi lunch tradition starting in our first year is now the most important event for my friends and me. I learned that if I wanted to do something, I shouldn’t just wait to be invited but to start it myself.

A group of students dressed in wedding attire, a historic building and mountain range in the background
Celebrating a friend’s wedding in Mexico

Giving Back to My Community

As I built more friendships, many of my peers expressed interest in visiting my home country of Japan. But they needed support to do so. Asia is far from the U.S., we are in the opposite time zone, and the language and culture are different. I could easily empathize with their concerns, but I imagined how fantastic if I could travel with all of my friends in my country.

Group photo of dozens of students in Japan, someone in the center of the group is holding a white and blue Fuqua flag
One stop on our Japan trek

Seeing an opportunity to give back to the Fuqua community that had supported me, I decided to plan a winter break trek to Japan. The experience gave me valuable insights, teaching me more about my friends and myself. This is what I learned:

  • My friends’ interests and enjoyment sometimes differed from my expectations. I have traveled within my country many times and am familiar with major must-sees for tourists, but my friends are good at finding something new and funny. Following their lead introduced me to new perspectives on experiencing my home country.
  • Team Fuqua is always Team Fuqua. Before and during the trek, many people showed they cared about my experience and asked if there were any ways they could help. From assistance coordinating karaoke to ordering drinks in Japanese, I am so thankful for my friends who stepped up on the trek! Another memorable moment for me was receiving the surprise gift they had gotten for me as the trek leader. Having a loyal community to lean on is my favorite thing about Team Fuqua.
  • Most importantly, I learned that balancing the needs and preferences of a diverse group is challenging. There is no simple solution, but this hands-on experience taught me valuable lessons about leading a team with various cultural backgrounds and individual preferences.
A group of people sitting a table in a restaurant in Japan
Sukiyaki dinner with my section mates in Japan

Overall, the trek was an opportunity for me to give back to the Fuqua community that had supported me, while also learning how to navigate cross-cultural experiences as a future leader.