Chongbo, an international student from China arrived on the University of South Carolina campus in January 2018, and just graduated with a degree in marketing from the prestigious Darla Moore School of Business, as well as a minor in mathematics. This fall, he heads to Georgia to begin his master’s in economics at Georgia Tech.
Chongbo was part of the UofSC International Accelerator (IAP) family all four years of college. After he finished his first-year program, he served as an orientation leader and a bilingual math tutor each semester until graduation.
Right after finals were finished, Chongbo spoke with Lauren Stone, managing director of the IAP at UofSC, and reflected on his educational journey.
Living in Columbia, South Carolina
From the day he arrived, Chongbo felt very at home in Columbia: People were friendly and helpful, including total strangers. He loved spending time in the historic Horseshoe.
“Some students who come from a big city may feel a little bit uncomfortable when they first [arrive],” Chongbo said. “This is a small town and it does not have a well-developed transportation system. But this is why you come to America! You can experience something different than your own home country. UofSC is a great place to study because it is quiet, beautiful, and safe. Although the city is small, the infrastructure is perfect.”
Remembering Favorite Memories at UofSC
Chongbo remembered his first week in orientation very fondly: meeting new friends, learning the campus, getting help and support from other students and the IAP team.
As his studies continued, one memorable moment came when Chongbo was asked to give a speech at a Progression Ceremony for other IAP students. He had just finished his Career Accelerator program and was asked to share his experience. He was very anxious about public speaking, but also really proud that he faced the challenge and successfully made the speech.
Lastly, he called out his participation in Face to Face, a student organization that brought together Americans and international students for fun activities.
Becoming a Math Tutor
Chongbo arrived at UofSC with a good understanding of math; however, he needed to learn the differences between Chinese and American teaching methods. So, he audited the classes for which he was tutoring and did the exercises alongside all other students. Then, Chongbo created his own problem sets and learned how to deconstruct math to a detailed level to explain to other students who struggle with the subject. He also helped many students understand how faculty can have different teaching styles and how they can adapt (which is an important life skill). All told, Chongbo helped more than 100 students get more comfortable with math.
Discovering a Love of Economics
During his studies, Chongbo audited Quantitative Economics, a math class required for business majors, to improve his tutoring skills. In class, Chongbo discovered that this field combined his love of math with his new interest in economics. His previous experience in China had approached the subject very differently, but in class at UofSC, he discovered how finance tools could be applied to the wider world, which he loved. He also appreciated his professors’ highly interactive teaching methods, so much that he hopes to someday be a professor of economics – either in the US or in China.
Working with the IAP Team
When Chongbo was chosen to be an orientation leader and was responsible for supporting new students, he realized that he had learned so much and could really help others. He loved the sense of transferring knowledge (which also shows what a great professor he will be).
Studying During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Chongbo stayed in Columbia throughout the pandemic, as he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to return and that his studies would be interrupted. It was a difficult decision, as his parents were very worried and he is close to his family. Taking classes online was a bit of an adjustment, but once he established a new disciplined schedule, he got into a new pattern.
Once his routine was in place, Chongbo found he needed to leave his apartment to study – too many distractions there – so he often went to the library. He kept a group of friends around for support to meet for meals. He is now vaccinated and hopes that soon he can make the trip back to China to see his family.
Applying to Graduate School
If you hope to go to graduate school, the preparation starts years in advance, says Chongbo. “For the application, I think the most important thing is to keep a good GPA,” he says. “This reflects your efforts during your four-year studies. Also, have some experiences outside the school, [like] volunteering or an internship. Then the school knows you not only do well in studies, but also in society.”
For the personal statement in your application, Chongbo recommends emphasizing how both you and the school will benefit from your enrollment.
“Make sure you let the school know how they can help you be successful,” he says. “This is important, the school will only seek students who are [the] best fit for their program. Sometimes you get rejected, not because you are not qualified, [but] because they don’t know how their program can help you be successful. Be prepared to have an interview with the school. During the interview, be confident and tell the truth.”
What’s Next for Chongbo
After being accepted to graduate programs at both Johns Hopkins and Georgia Tech, Chongbo chose Georgia Tech and will soon move to Atlanta to start his master’s degree! He was drawn to Georgia Tech for their small size and excellent economics department.
Best of luck, Chongbo! We can’t wait to hear about your next adventures.
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