Last semester, the LIS department had the pleasure of hosting international student Leslie Liu from Beijing, China. For Liu, the chance to study in the U.S. began more than a year earlier. She first applied in December 2011, which was the first time opportunities in the field of LIS were offered. “There is a very fierce competition,” Liu says, “and sometimes you cannot get what you want.” “I’m so lucky– I was the first one to get passed through,” she says. “I got my first choice, UNCG.”
Liu is an MLIS graduate student at Beijing Normal University, and she works at the National Library in China, which is a large, urban public library in Beijing. Liu already studied LIS as an undergraduate, so really she has been focusing on this discipline for six years. Coming to the U.S. has introduced her to different types of education, and the first few weeks of classes surprised her.
A new way to learn
In China, “The professors would prepare the PowerPoint, and they give you the book,” Liu says. “You read it, you memorize it, you understand it, and then, that’s yours. You turn out to take the examinations, and every time you finish the examinations, all the knowledge will disappear,” she says. “But for the first time, I got shocked here.”
“On the first day of my class, I walked back home with all the thoughts spinning, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, is that education?'” Liu says. “It’s kind of a way to shock what I have already learned– kind of like I have already built a castle, and I think this castle is great enough to stand there and fight against the enemies, but suddenly a little stone just ruins everything,” she says.
In addition to taking Foundations of Library & Information Studies with Dr. Julie Hersberger, the first class to “shock” her, Liu also took Media Production with Dr. Sandra Andrews and an independent study with Beth Martin in Social Networking. “I talked with Dr. Clara (Chu) and she gave me some suggestions,” Liu says. “She asked me what I did, what I want to do, what I want to learn, [and] then she gave me suggestions,” she says.
Liu wanted to build on the research she did in social networking as part of her job at the National Library in Beijing, where she studied social networks and developed ways to use networks to encourage library use, especially among teenagers. The independent study gave her a chance to examine social media in the U.S., especially using Facebook and Twitter, both of which do not exist in China (they use other social networks such as Renren and Weibo). Liu also worked in the Cataloging Department at Jackson Library, assisting Mary Jane Conger with the cataloging of Chinese books.
Even though it took a while to adjust to a new culture, Liu valued her experiences at UNCG. “I definitely had some problems that were really hard to handle,” Liu says, but, “I learned some lessons from my father; that’s how I can be so positive and handle things in a positive way,” she says.
“My father told me that whenever you run into something that you didn’t expect, there’s no space for regret,” Liu says. “You have two choices: move forward with tears, or move forward with a smile,” she says. “The tears will definitely make your life miserable, but the smile makes everything light.”
Liu, who returned to China in mid-December, wants to come back to the U.S. to work on a Ph.D. in LIS. “I definitely don’t want to abandon my Facebook friends,” she jokes. “I will definitely miss this place and the people here,” she says. “I really want to come back again.”
Even though she doesn’t know her exact path after she finishes her MLIS degree, Liu says that some mystery can be a good thing. “If you can see yourself in five years, that means everything is settled, without challenges– Don’t take it, it’s not interesting,” she says. “If you can’t predict what you’re going to do in the future, that means you will always face the challenges [and] face something new.”