When Yiting Zheng arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was prepared to make several adjustments while living in the United States.
But one thing Zheng, who hails from Southeast China, was not prepared for, was how friendly the other students were.
“Here, people even talk to people who are just walking by or waiting in line,” he said. “That’s not a thing (people do) in China so when I first came here I felt it was odd.
“But after a semester, because strangers were talking to me, I felt it would be nice for me to start talking back. Now, I have really good conversations with people I had never known before.”
Zheng chose UW-Milwaukee because he was interested in studying at a large university in a big city. But the school also needed to fit within his budget.
UWM offered Zheng the perfect combination of size and affordability. UWM is located in an American Midwest city that has a regional population of 1 million. There are currently about 1,300 international students enrolled at the university.
“The city of Milwaukee is the biggest in Wisconsin, but it’s also affordable,” Zheng said. “For many other cities, like Chicago and New York, they are mega-huge cities, but the cost of living is so high that I could not afford it.
“Milwaukee has everything (those other cities have) but you also have a small town feeling. Everyone here is really friendly and everything is affordable.”
Zheng enrolled at UWM in 2016 and is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Science, Architectural Studies (BSAS) from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning in May.
The School of Architecture and Urban Planning, known locally as “SARUP” is one of 14 colleges at UWM, a top-ranked American research university (Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education) that the World University Rankings named among the top three percent of universities worldwide.
“I like this program because they are not just focused on the academic aspect of architecture, but they’re also trying to help us network for our future career,” Zheng said. “They have alumni come in and give us lectures all the time, and they invite other architects from around the country to visit. We have lots of opportunities to talk to architects from outside of Milwaukee and Wisconsin.”
Zheng has built strong relationships with students and faculty at SARUP, taking advantage of UWM’s study abroad program to travel to Paris with one of his professors for a semester. UW-Milwaukee students have the opportunity to live and study in another country for up to a year by choosing from more than 170 study abroad programs.
Zheng suggests that every architecture student should study abroad because it’s an opportunity to touch and feel historic buildings. But what he learned about culture applies to students in any program.
“I’m from China and the U.S. is a different kind of culture, but in Europe and France, it’s another kind of culture,” he said. “I used to think of Western culture and Eastern culture on these two sides, but when I studied abroad, I got to know that even though the U.S. and France are Western cultures, they are still different.”
After graduating, Zheng plans to work in the United States for a year or two before pursuing his master’s degree.
“Milwaukee has lots of job opportunities,” he said. “When you graduate, the biggest thing is to find a job and there are lots of companies and firms in Milwaukee and its surrounding areas.”