“Some birds are not meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright.”  – The Shawshank Redemption

According to Ziyu, or Mia as her friends know her, this movie quote is her life motto.

Mia attended a high school in Austin, TX this past school year as a sophomore. Mia’s Local Coordinator, Ricardo describes her:

“Mia is an exceptional young lady whom I had the privilege and honor to be part of her high school American experience. She is humble, respectful, and most of all grateful for the opportunity to attend a U.S. high school. Our conversations would be my fondest memories of Mia. I always looked forward to seeing Mia and sharing her high school experience. She was always upbeat and positive!”

Mia has fully embraced the opportunities presented to her while on the program, forming many memories, engaging in a variety of experiences, and excelling in so many ways.

One of many of her memorable experiences is when she participated in the Outdoor Leadership (ODL) club at school and visited Big Bend National Park with her peers during Spring Break.

“It was an unforgettable experience which included both laughter and tears. We had to carry a 44-pound backpack while hiking at least 6 miles every day. It was really hard! I accidentally rolled my ankle on the second day which made it difficult for me to continue the trip because of the pain. However, I didn’t give up, and I was determined to stick it out. I said it, and I did it!” she recalls.

This determination also led Mia to being recognized at her school’s academic awards ceremony for her excellence in science and photography.

“These two awards mean so much to me. They not only show I achieved some academic goals during the year, but also represent that all my efforts didn’t go down the drain, and that I have made some progress.”  She says that her tutor deserves much credit for helping her because he inspired her to work harder and achieve more.

Mia has always been interested in the sciences, especially Chemistry.  She explains:

“I learned a lot of theoretical knowledge when I studied in China. When I came to America, I had the chance to link theory with practice. So, I did lots of memorable experiments with my partners. This was definitely one of the highlights of my year.”

With regards to photography, Mia enjoys taking pictures of every beautiful moment in her life and says that she has a talent for observing and finding beautiful scenery in daily life. Two of her best images were selected to be displayed in the Austin Arts Night Exhibition.

“Every time I click the shutter, that means I’ve captured a special transitory moment of my life,” she says.

Mia’s interests don’t end there! Her bright colors extend into athletics, as she was a member of her school volleyball and basketball teams. She recalls:

“I used to be a fencer in China, and it brought me a healthy body. It also laid the foundation for my training which helped me become one of the starting five players of our basketball team.”

Mia shares that her host family was wonderful. She knew that they cared a lot for her and treated her nicely. Her favorite memories include spending Thanksgiving with them, helping them cook, playing basketball with her host siblings, and helping with housework.

Of all the memories Mia has created on the PSE program, she says that her favorite was going to the school prom.

“I hadn’t participated in a formal prom like this before. It was amazing, and I got the opportunity to communicate with lots of people there and spent a wonderful evening with my friends!”

Mia’s experience on the PSE program has taught her a lot.

“School life teaches me how to get along with people and respect our differences. All the experiences I had in ODL and the sports teams enhance my moral courage and willpower, which makes me a stronger person. Overall, after the whole year of studying abroad, I feel like I have changed a lot. I’ve become more independent and more confident of my future,” she reflects.

“Also, I want to mention that because I am an international student, I feel like the biggest difficulty in my study is not the courses themselves but the language. I have to overcome the language barrier in order to communicate with classmates and understand all the information in our classes, and I’m still working on it,” she shares.

Mia also appreciates the vast history of her home country of China and how it blends with modern life. “I will always appreciate all the experiences I had there which built my character and molded me into who I am today,” she says.

Regarding the future, Mia would like to do more volunteer activities in order to help needy people and to make society a better place.

“I’m always willing to help people while they are struggling because this makes my life meaningful,” she says.

In addition, she hopes her interest in business will lead her to entrepreneurship projects. Her definitive goal is to be admitted into one of her dream schools. “To achieve this goal, I will keep doing what I love and try to make each day count because the world is a fine place and worth fighting for,” she shares.

“I wish Mia only the best. She will succeed in all of her future endeavors without a doubt,” says Ricardo.

We look forward to following Mia’s journey and wish her much success along the way!

Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen

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