A taste of the real world

A taste of the real world

Chinese student discovers culture, plans for the future. When Haichao Fan came to UMB from China in August 2008 she had never set foot on a farm yet she had a horticulture degree.

A taste of the real world

She studied vegetable production for four years inside a classroom or a greenhouse at Tianjin Agricultural University, her undergraduate institution.

Haichao Fan is a chinese exchange student
Haichao Fan is a chinese exchange student Photo: Lauren Krizansky
During Haichao’s first week at UMB, the Agroecology Masters Program had her on a farm taking in agriculture with all of her senses. Her dreams were coming true.
“I am lucky when I go to the farm,” Haichao said. “When I studied before I didn’t have the chance to go to the farm. So, I think, how can I do the real work?”

“Real work” is what Haichao sees in her future. She said that she wants to work with international agriculture projects after meeting and studying with UMB international students.
“This is a unique experience, working with people from different countries with different cultures,” Haichao said. “It is something special to communicate with them and learn about their knowledge.”

Haichao described her “new” international interests as “a bridge.”
“I want to work with an international team in developing countries,” Haichao said. “Agriculture is a concern all over the world. I would like to talk with people in other countries to see if I can help them. You know, be that bridge or be that connection.”

Norwegian dreams
Communication is one of Haichao’s most developed skills. She speaks three languages: Chinese, English and – as of last year - Norwegian. She came to Norway to study its language, history, art and politics at Volda University College - located on the country’s west coast – before she was accepted to the UMB Agroecology Masters Program..

“Before I came here I thought that I might stay in Norway for several years,” Haichao said. “Maybe get more then a masters degree if it is a possibility. Maybe I can work part time. To do this the language is necessary.”

Haichao Fan  Dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, Haichao Fan stands in her familys home in China the night before she came to UMB.
Haichao Fan Dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, Haichao Fan stands in her familys home in China the night before she came to UMB. Photo: Lauren Krizansky

Many of these possibilities are slowly turning into realities since she received her official UMB letter of acceptance.
“In April (2008) I got an email from UMB that said I was accepted to the Agroecology Masters Program,” Haichao said. “I was so happy that I could not fall asleep the whole night! I am very happy because UMB is a great university. My whole family is very happy for me!”

There are many, many reasons that Haichao thinks UMB is a “great university.” Most importantly, she said, it is because she can “think.”
“I am very happy about the subjects I am studying and my life here,” Haichao said. “I think that Aas is a very small place and that it is very quiet.”

In China, she said, she lives in a big city that is full of traffic and people rushing around all day long.
“There is just much more noise,” Haichao said. “I liked to take a walk at night (in China) so I could have a quiet space to think about what I should do tomorrow and about what I had done that day. Here every time is a comfortable time for me to think!”

Haichao has also found a sense of freedom in her study options. She said that she is “making her own path.”
“You can choose the subjects that you like,” Haichao said. “Agriculture is what I like and Agroecology is my choice. I am putting more energy into it because it is my choice. I have lots of freedom.”

Cooking up on weekends
Haichao recommends that students are aware of their interests before they arrive at UMB.
“You can choose from so many subjects,” Haichao said. “I would also advise new international students to take some time to study the Norwegian language.”

She said that knowledge of the language – even if it is just a little – could help a new student connect with people. However, she added, taking the time to communicate with people from other cultures is what makes UMB amazing.

“I live with people from different countries,” Haichao said. “When we have time we talk about our different cultures. Often it is when we are in the kitchen.”

It is in the kitchen where Haichao always takes the time to remember her family and her Chinese culture.
“In my apartment I cook traditional Chinese food,” Haichao said. “I learned how to cook from my mother because now I have to live without any help. Now I cook for others and they think that I am a good cook!”

Haichao said that it is hard to be so far away from her family, but she has quickly learned that she has a community – a different kind of family – to keep her company.

“During the weekend I cook together with my friends,” Haichao said. “I am in the classroom or out in the field Monday through Friday and I never feel lonely here. At UMB I get real world experience and I have a chance to communicate with different people from different countries. It is wonderful.”

The author, Lauren Krizansky, is an exchange student from Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. She is studying Agroecology and various agricultural and environmental studies at UMB. She has worked as a journalist, in public relations, and as a technical writer in southern Colorado and Wisconsin. Contact her with story ideas and comments at

Published 2. September 2014 - 10:20 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:44