University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Reflections From A Graduating International Student—2017

Ben Ma (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences) gave the following remarks at the International Student Graduation and End of Year Party at the Weisman Art Museum.

Good afternoon, friends. It is my true honor to stand up here and share some of my thoughts during this graduation ceremony today. First of all, I would like to congratulate all the graduating seniors and graduate students that are here today. A big round of applause for those who are graduating. We've made it through… almost.

When I think back, 4 years ago, just the summer before college, I was in in my hometown, supposedly to enjoy my problem-free summer vacation, but I just felt a bit anxious. I felt worried about adjusting to college. I was reading a Buzzfeed article about "The top 50 most failed university classes in the U.S" (general biology, calculus, chemistry). I was holding in my hands my class schedule that had the top 10 of the top 50.  But I wasn't going to fail, I was going to tackle all the hard class and succeed in college! While I was pounding my chest for academics, my father came in and told me, "Ben, you go study abroad to live there. You need to live well to study well." This totally changed my perspective, I wasn't thinking of living, only studying. I then decided, I will live well and survive the winter.

So I came to Minnesota, and started my first semester as a freshman. Carrying a backpack and walking on the campus, what I didn't prepared was how to say no to people passing out event flyers. My answer when they were recruiting for MISA? "YES." Rehearsal for a play? "YES." Meet and greet luncheon at CFANS? "YES." Needless to say, as a freshman new to everything, I was amazed by different activities that one can do on this campus. College campus is a big playground, full of possibilities, and it's a relatively safe place to be experimental. Who would thought that I co-produced a experimental drama play in my junior year, as a food science student. On top of studying, everyone in college belongs to his or her own community, chasing passions, building friendship, making mistakes recovering and trying again. It is a free place where young people can experiment and really live well.

And, off course, I am one of the young people. I started to share information about China [with others] and gradually became passionate to internationalize this campus and bring people together to learn about different cultures and celebrate differences. I was busy with going to classes, organizing events, attending panel discussions, studying for midterms, hanging out with friends, and all of the sudden, hey, I was enjoying living on this campus, and I live well. Meanwhile, the more I involved, the more I realized that I was multi-tasking many things at once. College has trained me to do more than one thing at one time, and do them all well! Exactly what my father meant.

Throughout my college experience, I was trained to take risks to experiment different academic fields, learn about completely unfamiliar subjects, and organize my schedule. Undergraduate years will certainly be missed because of the freedom that we have had on campus. I am thankful to living on this campus, interacting with people from all over the world, and opening my eyes to the interconnectedness of the world. Spending four memorable years on this campus made me feel responsible to myself, the people around me, and the world that we live in. Facing the future, I am excited to carry my spirit post graduation and tell the world that I have lived in Minnesota, and I lived well.