1 in 61,000

By Jaden Urbi


Snow Bai, president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, sits at her desk in the MU

Ask anyone over seas what they think of America – chances are you’ll get a range of answers from New York City, to loud or maybe even arrogant Americans but more than likely you’re not going to get Ames, Iowa.


But for almost 4,000 students from across the globe, that is exactly where their mind goes when they think of America. Hosting students from over 100 countries, Iowa State University has given international students an unlikely home amongst 61,000 other Ames residents in the middle of America.


After navigating her way through almost 24 hours of travel, language barriers, airport security and lost luggage, one student found her way to America to start one of the biggest adventures of their lives.


For Snow Bai, senior in industrial engineering, her life in America actually started in small town Idaho during her senior year of high school. Per her mom’s encouragement, she participated in a high school study abroad program to test out America before committing to a four-year college.


“Coming here was nerve wracking, I didn’t know what to expect, but somewhere in my mind I knew it was going to be awesome too,” says Snow.


On her first day in the states, she rolled out of a bed in a house she had never been in, thousands of miles away from her parents, and walked out into an unfamiliar kitchen and greeted her new host parents with a very American, ‘Good morning’.



A poster board made for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association

Her host parents laughed and motioned to the clock that read 1:00 p.m. Snow was already adjusting to life as an American teenager, or maybe it was the jetlag.


Snow spent her last year of high school in an Idaho town of 500 people, a slight contrast from her home city of Shijiazhuang, China, which boasts over a million.  Somewhere between the shock of nobody locking their doors during the day and always being served ice water, a very American thing to do, Snow found a home in a quaint American small town.


After graduating high school and doing some research on college programs and tuition, Snow knew she wanted to come back to America and start her college career at Iowa State.


“Moving to Ames wasn’t as hard for me as my move to Idaho, by then I was used to everything, Ames was just a little bigger,” says Snow.


Here in Ames, Snow has not only managed to find a home in Ames, but also became an integral member of the community.


From saving first-year students from the slick blue dorm mattresses on their first nights by driving them to Target to buy new sheets, to helping the upperclassmen navigate the post graduation Visa sponsored job search, Snow has made a direct impact on students’ experiences.


Now an upperclassman, Snow is far from a stranger to the stretches of cornfields and a seasoned pro at requesting ‘water no ice’. A regular at Taste Place, (which has gained a reputation as the most authentic Chinese food in Ames), TJ Maxx and Black Engineering, Snow is a true Cyclone.


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