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Zhen (Jane) Gao, a graduate student from Xi'an, China, has benefited from campus events such as the International Coffee Hour.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2015 profile: Zhen Gao
May 12, 2015Tweet
Zhen (Jane) Gao had a hard time communicating with people when she arrived at Binghamton University from Xi’an, China, in August 2013, to pursue a master’s degree. She was even apprehensive about picking up a ringing phone.
Then she found the International Coffee Hour.
“The International Coffee Hour helped me a lot because I had a difficult time making friends,” she said. “Undergraduates are interested in making new friends, but graduate students enjoy their personal lives more. At the International Coffee Hour, I got to know people from India, France, Korea. Most of the people I know now are from the International Coffee Hour.”
The monthly coffee hour strives to provide a forum for interaction among international and domestic students, as well as well as with faculty, staff and the community. The event draws visitors from groups such as the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), the Office of Residential Life and the Center for Civic Engagement.
“It can be hard to communicate with American students when you first come to campus,” Gao said. “But you start to feel more comfortable when you talk to other international students. You can practice your English with them and then (reach out) to more Americans.”
Gao, 23, got plenty of English practice as an undergraduate student at Xi’an International Studies University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in translation and interpretation in 2013. She got more experience with the language during an exchange year at the University of Central Oklahoma in 2011-12. There she found an interest in business classes.
“The experience in Oklahoma was important to me,” she said. “I loved the life there and thought life here would be similar. But life on the East Coast is different than the central part of the United States.”
After returning to Xi’an from Oklahoma, Gao began to research and apply to U.S. graduate schools to study management. She chose Binghamton University based on its value and proximity to New York City.
Learning in the School of Management has been exciting for Gao, who will receive her master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance.
“SOM is so helpful, especially the Career Services Office,” she said. “We have case competitions and an Executive in Residence series. We can talk with alumni and network with them.”
Gao was part of an MBA Case Competition team that took first place for making recommendations to help Dollar General grow and earn more profit.
“Our professor asked us to e-mail our (report) to the Dollar General CEO,” she said. “But we haven’t heard anything yet!”
Gao spent the summer of 2014 working as a project associate for CHT4 Corporation, an innovation and engineering company based in Cambridge, Mass. She spent fall 2014 working as a financial and operations analyst for a Sonic Blocks, a start-up at the Innovative Technologies Complex at Binghamton University.
She hopes to use the experiences to gain a job as a financial analyst, preferably in a warm-weather state such as Texas or California.
“It’s too cold here!” she said with a laugh.
After commencement, Gao plans to travel on the East and West coasts for a month with her parents. Gao’s mother is making her first visit to the United States for the ceremony and sightseeing.
“I want to stay (in America) for three to five years and then go back to China,” Gao said. “My parents are getting older and I want to take care of them.”
Gao continues to meet and help new people by attending International Coffee Hours and volunteering at the ISSS. She also participated in the CCE/ISSS Alternative Spring Break, painting and gardening at The Family and Children’s Society in Binghamton.
“I like doing volunteer work,” she said. “It’s a great way to make new friends. You can’t just study every minute. You need time to go out and talk with friends. Volunteer work is also a good way to get into the community and University.”
“Jane is an extremely personable and friendly student,” said Linda Torricelli, ISSS programming coordinator. “At International Coffee Hour, she connects with both friends and new acquaintances with ease. She has been a great Bearcat and will continue to be wherever she settles.”
Gao, whose hobbies include swimming and hiking, advised new international students to take advantage of campus activities.
“My best memory (of Binghamton University) will be making so many good friends from so many different countries and hanging out on the weekends,” she said. “That will be my happiest memory.”