"It means accomplishing the dream of a 15-year-old me, who came to this foreign country and was unable to speak fluent English."
Yanwen Wei, an Interior Design 2022 graduate and first-generation student born in China, conquered countless challenges to earn an OU degree. As a high school student, the fields of computer science and architecture stuck out to her, and she realized quickly that OU, which offers both programs, would be the best place to set off on her journey to a bachelor’s degree.
“During my first year at OU, I met with one of the interior design seniors at the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture and learned about the major and the challenges that went with it,” Yanwen said. “In that conversation, I saw the passion in her eyes and that was exactly what I was looking for — something that gets me up every morning.”
The following year, Yanwen joined the interior design program. From the very beginning, the faculty body in the program strived to provide as many resources as possible for their students. Yanwen appreciated the times when working professionals in the field shared their work and experiences, as it helped her prepare better for life after college.
A faculty member who stood out most to Yanwen was her professor and capstone instructor, Elizabeth Pober. In class, Pober promised her students that she would become part of their support system and help them get through tough times in capstone.
“As my capstone journey came to an end, I saw how she put her words into action,” Yanwen said. “She offers warm words and support when you doubt yourself, and she gives you a little push when you need it the most. I am grateful for having her as a professor.”
For Yanwen, her OU degree is more than just a piece of paper. It stands for many sleepless nights and deadlines, as well as a reminder of why and how she started. This is what drives her to improve herself every day.
“Being a first-gen college student and an only child in an immigrant family is like taking a train, accidentally taking a nap, and then ending up in a different world. It was all about the unknown at first, that you must figure everything out on your own. And then, there were friends and teachers who come along and help guide you through the darkness. You learn more things and become stronger, and finally, you can embrace the adventure.”