Unity international students

Elida Chen, Nerwen Cao, Amy Zhang and Deborah Wu enjoy a Unity Christian High School football game.

SPECIAL NOTE: Nwestiowa.com will be featuring articles and photographs by students in Meghan Vermeer’s journalism class at Unity Christian High School.


ORANGE CITY—Amy Zhang, Elida Chen, Nerwen Cao and Deborah Wu are all juniors at Unity Christian High School, and they are all also international students from China.

They have host families that they are staying with until they graduate, and they all have different plans for their future. So far, they all have been here for the past two years, and they have new experiences from living in the United States.

Compared to their hometowns, Iowa was different. Nerwen mentioned how transportation is different and how most students drive themselves. In China it’s a very common way of transportation to take subways, public buses, taxis or even to ride bike around town to get anywhere.

Elida noticed that in the United States, supper is usually the most important meal, but in China, lunch is most important. They also have quite different food compared to the average American food, mostly including more spices.

After arriving in the United States, the students settled down into their new host families, the family that they would have to live with for three to four years.

“It was really nice to see my host family. I was kind of nervous but also excited to talk to them,” Amy said.

All the international students enjoy their host families, which is very important if you have to live with them for such a long time.

After a week or two of living with their host families, school starts. School can be a difficult thing to deal with, especially if you are from another country, and you don’t know anyone.

“I felt really lonely on the first day,” Nerwen said. “I remember I was sitting in the choir room before the bell rings, nobody was there at first. Then, as people come in groups and they all seem to know each other already, I felt extra, extra bad and almost cried.”

Now, things are better. It has been a year since then, and all the international students feel more at home in Iowa.

“I felt more at home after I realized Orange City has the same climate as my city in China,” Amy said.

Elida made more friends at Unity, and that’s when she finally started to feel at home. Some of the students are thinking of staying in the United States after their studies at Unity are finished. However, they still have some doubts and might travel to different countries. Amy, on the other hand, is thinking of traveling to different places, like Australia or Canada.

Living in a new country can be difficult, but when you meet people that have similar experiences as you, it can make it a lot easier. Elida, Nerwen, Amy and Deborah have all experienced different things while being in the United States that have helped them grow into the people they are today.