Meng Xu ’14 studied abroad twice during college: for one semester in Tokyo, Japan and for seven semesters in Claremont, USA. Originally from Shanghai, China, Xu is one of nine international students who graduated from Pitzer College in May. Just as many students travel to Nepal or Costa Rica during college, Xu came to Pitzer to learn a foreign language and experience a culture different from his own. He viewed his initial discomfort as a desirable inevitability—a kind of prerequisite for a global education.
“I wanted to give myself a hard time, to push my limits,” Xu said.
Xu lived in Anaheim for two years during high school, but he spent much of his time there with other Chinese students. During Pitzer’s New Student Orientation, Xu was afraid he would embarrass himself if he spoke English. “I couldn’t talk for like a week,” he said. Today Xu speaks not only English, but Japanese, in addition to his native Mandarin.
The media studies major has been fascinated by Japan’s popular culture since he was a child and began studying Japanese his first semester in college. For many in his parents’ generation, relations between China and Japan are often strained by historic tensions stemming from the World War II era. Xu says his generation sees the world differently. “For young people, the feeling is less strong,” Xu said. “I am a big fan of Japan.”
One of the first students Xu met at Pitzer was Yo Wakita ’14, who is from Japan but lived in Beijing as a child. Now good friends, Xu often speaks with Wakita in Japanese while Wakita answers in English, with a Chinese saying tossed in every once in a while.
Xu’s interest in how people communicate and break cultural barriers drew him to media studies at Pitzer. He says he has learned both inside and outside the classroom from professors and fellow students alike.
“Everyone is such a good example to me—I just copy and paste a little bit,” Xu said.
The international student who was afraid to speak English when he arrived on campus is now a funny, outgoing college graduate who enjoys chatting in multiple languages about media theory, fashion, and issues of identity and culture. He plans to work in guest relations with a Japanese travel company in Hawaii before pursuing graduate studies in media, communications and governance in Japan.
“Pitzer College remade me,” Xu said. “A liberal arts education is about more than learning the language and American culture; it is also about human liberty and learning how to be yourself.”