Chinese student follows dream, prayer
Years ago, a young Chinese girl sat on her mother’s lap and looked into the heavens.
“She would just hold me and point at the sky and say ‘star,’ ‘moon,’” Chen Chen said of her mother, who taught her to speak English.
As she grew up, Chen continued to learn English and also developed her faith – sparked by her mother’s teachings and by visiting Christian educators.
When the time came for her to attend a university, Chen once again looked to the heavens and decided on Southern Wesleyan University.
“I dreamed of coming to the United States. God chose Southern Wesleyan University for me and brought me here from far, far away,” Chen said. Her hometown is Hefei, China. “I’m here because I am a Christian. I want to pursue both my academic and spiritual education here.”
Although her name translates into “Chen Chen” in English, the Chinese symbols for her first and last names are different, she said. Her name means “God’s precious treasure,” she said with a broad smile.
“I love the Christian perspective at Southern Wesleyan University,” the freshman communications major said. “I feel God’s love everywhere here. People are close. Professors and students are like friends. I feel people’s love to each other here. SWU is the best.”
Another deciding factor is that the university’s main campus is close to Brevard, N.C., where her “American grandparents” Betty and Harry Newman live. The couple attends Brevard Wesleyan Church.
The Newmans are also responsible for fueling Chen’s dream to study in the United States. They were participants in a Christian organization that teaches English in China. The couple visited China during nine summers from 1992 to 2004. Chen met the couple when she was four years old and credits them with acquainting her with Christianity.
“My mom teaches in the English department in the college where they came to teach,” Chen said. Her father also works at the college. “The Newmans are so kind. They have such a love for people.”
Being far away from home is sometimes hard for the 19-year-old.
“It’s my first time outside of my country. All my family is in China. But I have no fear because I know God is with me,” Chen said.
She talks to her family through a webcam and an instant message program on her computer.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t talk to them. I really love my family and I’m very close to my parents. That’s very important to me,” Chen said.
She’ll see her parents – who both work at colleges -- over the summer break when she will spend three months at home in China.
Hefei is the capital city of the Anhui province, located in the Central region of China about 600 miles from Shanghai. The summers are warm like they are in South Carolina, but winters are a little cooler there, Chen said.
One person who has made her feel especially at home in the United States is Tina Collins of Liberty, a Southern Wesleyan University student who is fluent in Chinese and has years of experience with Chinese culture.
“I prayed about friends before I came here. A lot of students here are nice, but because they don’t know about my culture, it’s sometimes hard to communicate,” Chen said. “Tina has made a big change for me. She is like a sister. Weekends can be very lonely for me. Many students here go home on the weekends.”