Finance, Economics, Chinese
Tippie student Arabella Franze-Soeln sees nothing but benefits to the multicultural shift in the student population at Tippie—and for her, it’s like being home in China.
"I really appreciate the Chinese culture and society," says Franze-Soeln, who is majoring in Chinese, finance, and economics (with an International Business Certificate to boot). "Whenever people ask me 'Why China?' and I give them my answer, the first thing they say is 'No, come on. Let's be honest. You're just in it for the money because you know their economy is growing, they're economically stable.' But I've had a China mindset from a very, very young age, when I wasn't worried about money, finances, or my future," she says.
But she understands that for many, it is difficult to be open to international diversity.
"It doesn't always make things easier, let's be honest," she says. "There's always a language barrier, miscommunication, grammar mistakes, the usual things, but you have this mixing of cultures, a melting pot. We can learn from each other."
Franze-Soeln, who is Austrian, lived half the time in Austria and half the time in Eagle, Neb. She was home-schooled until high school. This gave the family the opportunity to spend time in Austria and Europe while growing up.
"Living in Austria and traveling in Europe was considered a large part of our education," she says. "The 'half-and-half' lifestyle was primarily to offer diversity in our education."
For high school, she enrolled at Phillips Exeter Academy, an East Coast boarding school, where she had the opportunity to study in Taiwan.
"I studied Chinese in high school and then spent two summers in Taiwan," she says. "My third year, I went to China through AFS Intercultural Programs, and I was placed with a Chinese family in the Henan Province city of Zhengzhou. I lived with them for that year, and they took me in as one of their own," she says. "My brother and sister have also studied there and lived with them, and my Chinese mom likes to say she has four kids, not just one. It's definitely a relationship that continues to this day."
There are a number of Tippie students from Henan Province, and Franze-Soeln loves finding out what they have in common.
"We'll talk about where we live, the places we all know about and have been, or we'll make plans to meet there sometime," she says.
Up until recruiting new members this past semester, Franze-Soeln was the only domestic student to join the Greater China Business Association, and she served as treasurer this year. Meetings were often held in Chinese.
"I had just come back from Christmas break in China, and I didn't want to lose my Chinese, so it was perfect," she says. "It's a great networking situation, the perfect hub for me," she says, "and I value those relationships. I love the fact that we have so many international students here. The more Chinese students we have, the more people I have to talk with, to network with, and to learn from.
"It's hard to explain how much I feel Chinese. It's almost comical," she says, as she points to the jade horse necklace she wears (she was born in the Year of the Horse) or to the stripe of black in her hair, which she calls her Asian hair.
"I'm very Asian at heart. The last time I left my Chinese family, I don't think I'd ever cried in public like that before," she says. "Whenever my Chinese cousin asks my Chinese mom, 'When is HeLi coming back?' she replies, 'We don't know when HeLi will come back. All we know is she will come back.'"