Study Abroad students add international flair to Leadership Program

Students in front of McDonough

Dr. Gama Perruci expects McDonough Scholars to approach their leadership studies and research from a global perspective.

“It’s important that the students in the Leadership Program get outside of their comfort zone and view a situation or issue through the lens of a different culture,” said the Dean of the McDonough Center for Leadership & Business. “We have ways that we help the students do this, but this semester we are fortunate to have students in the program who can provide first-hand knowledge.”

This fall, Perruci was thrilled to welcome two Chinese exchange students — ZeYu Gao and QiDi Zheng — into the McDonough Center for Leadership & Business at Marietta College.

“We are very excited with their participation in our program this year. They bring a different perspective on leadership that enhances the worldview of the American leadership students,” Perruci said. “Through their involvement in classes and service projects at McDonough, they will also gain a deeper understanding of leadership in a Western context. It’s a win-win arrangement.”

The exchange students agree, and they have enjoyed their experience at Marietta College and in the Leadership Program.

“I think leadership is one of the most powerful and important personality traits for today’s job market,” Gao said. “No matter if you are going to be a leader or not, people who have leadership skills tend to be more influential.”

Zheng, who will graduate from the China University of Petroleum in 2018, is thriving in a new environment.

“I really like the atmosphere here at Marietta College,” Zheng said. “The free style and interactions with students and teachers are the most enjoyable things I am experiencing. The feeling of absorbing as much knowledge as I can really makes me excited.”

Both students are currently participating in the Foundations of Leadership course with first-year Leadership students. Perruci believes this is the type of cross-cultural immersion that students seek in their college education.

Gao didn’t consider that before he arrived at Marietta, but he understands it more now.

“My time at Marietta can be described as a mix of tension and joy. Sometimes I am struggling with the amount of homework and quizzes,” said Gao, who will graduate from the University of International Relations in 2018. “But there are also times that I can enjoy laughter with friends. I think this is how college should to be — balancing between work and fun.”

There was still an adjustment period for both, though.

“The cultural difference is the biggest thing I have to get used to and I’m still experiencing it,” Zheng said. “For instance, sometimes I was always worried about saying something wrong or not behaving like Americans so that I might offend someone or make people feel weird. But Americans are always more considerate and understanding than I expected.”

Like many college students, homesickness eventually set in for the students after a few weeks away from their families.

“The funny thing is, I always think I’m not a very nostalgic person, because I travel a lot and I don’t like to be stuck in one place,” Gao says. “But studying abroad is not like traveling. I will spend almost a year in America. So sometimes I wonder if my parents are fine back in Beijing. Luckily I can make a video call with my parents and friends."