Place of birth: Beijing.
Date of birth: July 17, 1978.
Moved to Columbus in: October 2007.
Title: Electronics controls team leader at Cummins Inc.
Duties: Work on electronic controls of engines as part of Cummins Emission Solutions.
Education: Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Beijing. Master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri. Family: Wife, Zhen Wang; daughter, Erica Zhao, 4.
Hobbies: Spend time with family,
playing pingpong, collecting and
watching movies. I have about
100 movies, including adventure,
sci-fi, drama, comedy — and
cartoons for my daughter. My
favorite movies include the
“Matrix” series, “Lord of the Rings,”
“Terminator” series and “Cloud
Why did you come to the United States?
After getting my bachelor’s in Beijing I had worked for a few years, and I thought that to move my career to the next level it would be a good idea to get an advanced degree in the U.S., regardless of whether I stay there or go back to China. Plus, I had never been outside of China so it meant a little adventure.
Describe your arrival and what were your first impressions?
I flew from Beijing to St. Louis and was picked up by students. It was in late summer. We had a two-hour drive, but it was late at night and very dark, so I could not see a whole lot, plus I was very sleepy. I remember the air quality was much better than in Beijing.
What did you first notice that was different from your home country?
Because of the cleaner air, the sunshine seemed much brighter. It also was very hot. We spent a lot of time inside buildings. The campus was full of trees and grass, and it was much less crowded than in Beijing. It also took me a while to adjust to some of the foods. I was not used to drinking ice cold water for example, so that made my stomach feel uncomfortable at first.
And there was so much cheese on all the food here. That took some getting used to.
How did you adjust to living away from your wife?
She was completing her degree in China, so she stayed there initially. We talked on the phone and used Internet video chats to stay connected. She joined me here in Columbus in 2008.
In general, how has your experience been living as an international in the U.S.?
I’m lucky because the two place I’ve stayed were midsized towns that are friendly to internationals. I’ve heard from some of my friends that they had different experiences in some of the bigger cities. People in Columbus are quite friendly. They don’t hesitate to help you, and when you ask questions you usually get a friendly answer. Early on at college I also had lost my wallet, but I learned later that somebody had found it and turned it in, so I got it back. In China that would be unusual, so I felt like I lived in a safe place.
How did you adjust culturally?
After I joined Cummins, a Caucasian American co-worker helped me a lot, invited me to family dinners, especially at Easter and Christmas holidays and to church group activities. That also helped me a lot in my spiritual development. It got me thinking about many questions related to faith. I now attend Community Church of Columbus. But in general adapting to the culture here was not that difficult. I had exposure to Western culture, arts, movies, TV shows, etc. even in Beijing. We enjoy both cultures. I watch American TV shows and movies, but also Chinese ones over the Internet. We eat Chinese food — though it takes longer to fix — but we also eat American food. And when we go out, we might eat Chinese, American or Mexican.
What about American and Chinese holidays?
We celebrate both. We participate in Chinese New Year’s celebrations, but we also participate in church activities around Christmas and Easter. On Fourth of July we try to catch fireworks, and on Memorial Day we attend the concert on the courthouse lawn. I’ve gone to the concert three times already.
Q: How is your daughter adjusting?
A: Erica was born in January 2009 and is an American citizen. She also has spent a year in China with my wife, but she recently came back to join preschool to learn English. She is still more comfortable speaking Chinese, but I suspect that will soon change.
Q: What advice do you have for newcomers to make sure that they can adjust to life in Columbus?
A: I would suggest they join activities in local associations. Columbus has a Chinese association, and Cummins also has a Chinese affinity group. Newcomers who attend functions of those groups get to know other people quickly, and they also can gain valuable leadership skills, which also will help them in their careers.
Global Columbus is a twice monthly Q&A with members of Columbus’ international workforce. If you know someone we should talk to, contact Boris Ladwig at 379-5712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.