What’s it like being an Greenheart Exchange F1 Student in the USA?

Greenheart F-1 student Xuezhu “Stephanie” Hua came to the U.S. from China through Greenheart’s F-1 program in 2017 when she was 14 years old. This spring she will graduate from Portland Adventist Academy with honors and was recently accepted to Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. The Greenheart team caught up with Xuezhu recently to hear more about her experiences.

Xuezhu Hua (Stephanie) with a holiday treat.

Greenheart:  You’ve been here for almost 4 years! Thinking back to when you first arrived, how do you think you’ve changed during your time in the U.S.?

Xuezhu:  I would not be the same person I am now if I had not studied abroad! When I first came here, I was so shy, and my English was not good at all. I had no confidence. The first year I was here in Oregon, I had to really practice speaking English and step out of my comfort zone to talk to Americans. Now I feel comfortable talking to people I don’t know.

It sounds like you have more confidence now.

Yes! My mindset has changed. I thought I wasn’t that smart, I thought I couldn’t do things, but I learned to test my limits. I learned that, for most things, if I put time and effort in, there is no way I won’t succeed.

You were recently accepted to Syracuse University. Congratulations, that’s a huge accomplishment! Why did you decide on Syracuse?

Thank you! I had heard that Syracuse’s Newhouse School for Communications was really good. I want to be a news anchor and their program in broadcast journalism is good. Another thing I like is that their classes are really small, so I can have a better relationship with my teachers.

What do you like about Portland Adventist Academy?

I think the environment really pushed me to meet my limits. We do lots of presentations, and that really helped me improve my English. I struggled so much to write an essay at first! In China, we only wrote one paragraph essays. Now I can write several pages.

One of the best things I did at PAA was Junior Challenge. Our class went to a place in the mountains, and there was no road. They only gave us a small map. We hiked all day – I was so tired! We had to go to a high point to see where we were. I did my first rock climbing there – I can’t believe I made it to the top!

Xuezhu Hua climbing.


Can you tell me about an experience from the past four years that really impacted you?

I’m part of a youth group in my church called Pathfinders. Two years ago, we were helping the church to deliver food to families that don’t have enough food to eat at Thanksgiving. We also prepared clothes and shoes to give them. I learned that a lot of people don’t have enough clothes or a lot of money. I was really surprised, and it made me feel like I should appreciate what I have and help people who need help.

Xuezhu Hua (Stephanie)

You’ve been with the same host family for the last three years! Can you tell me about a memory with them that stands out?

They are really nice and friendly! I have always appreciated my host mom. She drives me to and from school every day. Since COVID I didn’t go home over the summer. My birthday was in August, and my host mother got me a cake. I was really surprised!

Xuezhu Hua (Stephanie) with her host family. Photo by Ben Dlausong.

Do you think you’ll come back to visit them once you’re at Syracuse?

Yes, I will definitely go back to visit them during holidays, like Christmas break!

Thank you, Stephanie! Congratulations once again on all your accomplishments!

Thank you! I’m so happy to share my experience!

Xuezhu Hua (Stephanie) with Junior Challenge friends.

Stephanie and her friends.

Xuezhu (Stephanie) Hua with friends.