Yitian “Hubery” Wang ’19 joined the Harley community as an international student from China in 9th grade at the age of 15. When I asked him why he chose to come to Rochester with the vast United States as an option, he replied, “I didn’t choose Rochester, I chose Harley.”
It is commonplace for Chinese students to come to the United States seeking educational opportunities and experiences that differ from those offered in China. When Hubery began his research, he found promising schools all over the United States, visiting many, and when he arrived in Rochester, he visited Harley and was given a tour of the city from local international student agent Jack Wang (not related). He said after the visit, Harley simply “felt the best.”
Hubery commenced school soon thereafter. While he was extremely excited about the start he was a little nervous about the initial language barrier. Although Chinese students study English throughout their childhood (starting at age 7 for Hubery), they don’t really get to practice it much. Hubery took every opportunity to elevate his language skills by practicing his conversational English with teachers, friends, and especially his host family.
The Harley School providing host families for international students is one of the most important pieces of the international student program, just ask Hubery. He said his language proficiency not only improved exponentially by being able to sit and converse with his family on a daily basis, but also helped him gain skills to connect with people in the Harley community, feel a part of American culture, and in-turn share the Chinese culture with his host family. He says this integration is consistent with the idea of inclusivity in the Harley community and he was fully invested. When Harley was in talks with Allendale Columbia regarding the merger, Hubery and the international students were called to action. Allendale Columbia has an “international house” where all of the international students stay. Concerned with what the future might hold for international students, Hubery penned a letter, signed by 26 other Harley international students that said, “Although the idea of an international house is to create a diverse community, we think in our case it ultimately segregates us.”
I asked Hubery to give me a highlight of his time at Harley and he laughed and said it was definitely when he ran for class president his junior year. He said as talk of elections were abuzz at school, he noticed candidate signs on bulletin boards and none of the candidates were international students. He wondered why and then when a friend said he should run, he did! He wanted to show the other international students that although, yes, they were international, they were at the core Harley students like everyone else. Hubery said it was his “noble mission” to encourage other international students to get involved and he said the speech he gave to the entire school inspired other international students to run the next year. The election results? He won! He also ran for student council president, but he lost that election to a “lifer” by only 7 votes. He was proud that he participated.
Now Hubery is a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh (taking classes virtually). He thanks Harley for preparing him and teaching him how to survive in American society, especially during this time of Covid. His relationships with Harley teachers, classmates, and his host family are still strong and he continues to count on their support. Hubery is the author of a blog, “International KID” and this past summer wrote about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issues regarding deportation. He said his friends in America are signing petitions and making statements in support of their international friends. He writes, “I am cheered by the American people I know…and amazed by the displays of inclusiveness of so many people…I feel empowered by the people who actually know me and fight for me, for my kind.”
Hubery says Harley is always a part of him and while some international students think they are not a part of this country, he knows that he is and feels a sense of responsibility to keep it that way. He says he is proud to have people fighting for him and speaking for him (like Harley classmates Fiona O’Brien and Gwyn Guthiel) and the consistent support of teachers like James Aldrich-Moodie (JAM) and John Dolan. He feels honored and protected and it amazes him how America includes everyone. He says this is especially true at Harley.
A big thing that has changed for him since moving to the States? He is a Buffalo Bill’s fan. He says that is sometimes hard, but they are looking good so far this year.