Any quick look at Belmont University senior Regina Lam, and you would think she is just your average college student. With her bubbly and bright personality, international exchange student Lam blends in perfectly with the Belmont crowd.
The 21-year-old Chinese journalism major traded in her life in Hong Kong for an extra year of study at Belmont. With encouragement from her mother and peers back home, Lam decided to make the leap to come to a city thousands of miles away — pushing back her graduation date.
“People may think I am so silly to do that. No one wants to defer his or her graduation. But like, for me, I want to explore more,” said Lam.
Little did she know, exploration was only a small challenge Lam would face as an international student. Director of International Student and Scholar Services Dr. Kathryn Skinner calls this process a ‘predictable adjustment cycle.’
“There is an adjustment cycle that international students go through. It goes from infatuation to deflation and then back to the up and up as they began to learn the language,” said Skinner. “And Regina is a great example of someone who has dealt with this so incredibly well.”
In her first semester alone, Lam had to figure out switching over her credit cards, establishing a phone plan and finding a form of transportation — all on top of making friends and adjusting to a new school in a new country.
While it was a tough transition, Lam gained the respect and admiration of students in her short time at Belmont. Her immense knowledge and quirky attitude bring fun and excitement to those around her.
“I love having class with Regina because she provides such an interesting perspective on the world and has such a vibrant personality,” said classmate Jessica Swan. “She is just one of those people you want to get to know.”
While it is apparent that Lam has excelled socially during her time here, she also credits a lot of her success at Belmont to her motivation and goals for the future.
“I really want to be able to write in two languages because I am very into politic things. And as a journalist, you need to know about international politics so it is essential for me to have this experience,” she said.
It was because of politics that Lam found her academic career as a journalism major. From a young age, Lam understood that politics are one of the driving forces in media, so choosing to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Chinese journalism was a no-brainer for her.
Through attending Hong Kong’s Baptist University School of Communication, Lam gained firsthand knowledge on how different Belmont’s student journalism academic platform is from hers back home.
From classroom dynamics to teacher-student interaction methods, Lam explained the major difference between her education back home and the one she is currently receiving at Belmont is real-world application.
“Education in Hong Kong is more practical — they do not teach you ahead of time like we do here, they just expect you to figure it out,” said Lam.
This type of expectation is strictly enforced, so Lam accumulated a great deal of experience in areas where she was expected to perform tasks with little to no preparation.
One of these moments occurred in her first broadcast journalism class. While it is typical for a Belmont professor to explain the syllabus and the expectations for the course on the first day of class, this was not Lam’s experience. Instead, her professor held the first class in the middle of a boycott happening on campus.
“Our teacher brought out five TV cameras with microphones. She said, ‘I know that today is the first day, but you have to be prepared, so go and interview protesters,’” said Lam, stifling a laugh.
In addition to real-world application experience, Lam also acquired real-time writing skills and work ethic. From attending a press conference every week to creating monthly magazine publications, Lam was able to come to Belmont with a wealth of knowledge and experience under her belt.
Not only are these skills Lam acquired during her education in Hong Kong valuable to her, but Belmont also credits international students as valuable to its institution both academically and socially.
“That why we bring international students here,” said Skinner. “Through the establishment of what I like to call ‘soft diplomacy,’ not only are the students benefiting from this exchange, but Belmont as a whole is benefiting as well.”
For anyone who has passed Lam on campus, with her smiling face and happy-go-lucky attitude, know that her time here at Belmont has been nothing but that– beneficial.
“I have made a lot of friends here at Belmont. It is just amazing that I can have many friends who grew up in entirely different cultural backgrounds and environments who influence my value and my life,” said Lam “I would not trade my time here for anything.”
This article was written by Cathlin Cantrell.