From cotton fields to corn fields
HOME: SHIHEZI, CHINA
MAJOR: ACTUARIAL SCIENCE
HOBBIES: BADMINTON; PRODUCING MUSIC
FAVORITE SAYING: “WE WERE BORN DIFFERENT, AND DESTINED TO BE DIFFERENT.”
After spending 12 hours of plane rides worrying about missing home, all of Zifan Kang’s fears dissipated when he set foot on the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s campus. Instead of being greeted with anxiety and uncertainty, Kang was met with hospitality and comfort.
“I have no homesickness at all, which is a huge surprise, but also no surprise at all,” he said. “As soon as I got here, all that panic and fear was gone. It was just a good feeling.”
The freshman actuarial science major attributed part of this feeling to the similarities between Lincoln and the remote, northeastern Chinese province he grew up in. Kang spent his childhood on his grandparents’ cotton farm outside of Shihezi, China. Both Shihezi and Lincoln are surrounded by flat farmland with cold, dry winters and have populations around 200,000 people. According to Kang, this transition just felt natural.
To Kang, Nebraska was also different than other places in the United States he’d visited before. In Nebraska, no one is surprised when Kang tells them to have a nice day whereas in Pittsburgh or New York he felt as though people were taken aback by his friendliness. Kang said he feels a sense of freedom here that he lacked in China or other colleges he’d visited.
“It’s not freedom in the sense of human rights, but it’s the freedom to be an individual,” he said. “It’s like you can do whatever you do, and be who you want to be.”
From a young age, Kang was taught to cross his hands on top of the desk and sit still to show respect for his professors. When he walked into class and saw a student sitting in the middle of the room barefoot, he was shocked. But after a semester at UNL, Kang has found comfort among his classmate’s accepting attitudes.
“In America, I’ve seen a lot of strange things, but people use the word ‘cool’ to describe them,” he said. “Weird is a good thing here, and that’s really cool too.”