Chinese Student Grows Spiritually, Academically at Auburn

AUBURN – Making friends in a culture almost totally distinct from your own requires patience and perseverance, but Chinese student Chenxi Hu used a unique and effective strategy.

"If I felt lonely, I would sometimes go to local restaurants, like the Chinese restaurant, and find some American people eating there," Hu said. "I would just say hi to them, and we would often become friends."

Hu (who uses the Anglicized name Jerry around American friends) is now into his third year at Auburn and quite comfortable in the culture that was once brand new to him.

"When I first came here, I did feel a little bit unadjusted to the local culture," Hu said. "There are a lot of differences between China's culture and the American culture. American people are more open, and they are more direct in asking you any questions."

There are also several differences in lifestyle between China and America, according to Hu. "Americans pay a lot of attention to outdoor exercises and sports, so that forced me to do more exercises to adjust to the culture," Hu said. "It helped me improve my body and feel energetic every day. Sports are now one of the main things I do in my spare time."

He arrived in Auburn during the football team's amazing run to a national championship in 2010, so football is one of the main sports he follows now. But his long dormant artistic side also awakened after his arrival. He especially enjoys Auburn's Theatre Department performances.

"I like the arts, and that kind of interest was fostered after I came here," Hu explained. "People here have a better living condition and don't have to pay a lot of attention to just basic living needs, so they pay more attention to the arts and spiritual enjoyment, and that also appealed to me and got me interested in that kind of thing.

"Right now I feel much more interested in the arts. Before, I never saw the arts as being very enjoyable. It was just something I did not understand. When people would talk about them, I would not know what they were talking about. Now it feels much more natural to discuss art."

Hu, 25, hails from Xiangtan, a city of nearly 3 million in the Hunan province in south China. He considers it a smaller city in the country of well over a billion people.

"The weather was hot, same as it is here, so that's why I feel comfortable with the weather here," Hu said. "A lot of people from north China joke that it is so hot in Auburn, they are unable to stand it."

He graduated from Hunan University with a bachelor's degree before coming to Auburn to obtain a Ph.D. in the field of electrical engineering. His research focuses on computational imaging such as computed tomography (CT) scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

"Auburn now has a very nice research center," Hu said. "I feel very proud of my research. I think that is a main part of my life, and I do feel a lot of achievement in that."

Hu likes the greater degree of freedom American professors provide their students in their research. "They believe in you and trust in you and believe that one day you will find your big research idea. They don't push you in the short term to get any (ideas). They also give you a lot of room to use your talents," Hu said.

Hu's time at Auburn has been enjoyable, and he has taken notice of the level of support he has received from his advisers, his department and the university as a whole.

"People in Auburn feel you being here is a good thing for them, and they feel like they want to serve you, and that's a good thing," Hu said. "They make it feel like home for you. It's not like you don't know anything about them, and they don't know anything about you. They are all friends with you, so that does shorten the distance in my heart from China."

Last Updated: January 22, 2013

Chenxi Hu