Home Photo Finding freedom in Rexburg

Finding freedom in Rexburg

What could a student from Hong Kong, China possibly be doing in a small town in rural Idaho?

After graduating from high school in Hong Kong, Alan Chan came to the United States to pursue a degree in sociology at BYU-Idaho. He is currently in his first semester as a freshman.

“I chose BYU-I because the college (in Hong Kong) is so hard to get in … and because the tuition is very low,” Chan said.

As an international student, Chan’s biggest struggle is with the language barrier.

“(English) is not my first language, so sometimes I cannot understand people talking very well,” Chan said.

Despite the barrier, Chan feels welcomed by the professors and students here. He developed a connection with his fellow students through Get Connected, playing darts, skateboarding and even his Rubik’s Cube.

Chan has been in America for over a year now, but his connection to Hong Kong is as strong as ever. When he misses his home city, he likes to watch the news and talk to his friends. The main topics of both the news and his conversations are the protests and marches which started in March 2019 over a new law pertaining to Hong Kong’s judicial system.

Most of Chan’s friends have joined the marches and protests in some way or another. He worries about them.

“The police, they’re crazy,” Chan said. “You cannot predict what they are going to do and what they want to do.”

In the U.S., the police help and protect citizens, but in Hong Kong they are overly violent and it doesn’t matter if they are “teenage, middle-aged, or elderly,” Chan said.

In Hong Kong, the internet is highly censored and monitored. Chan said here in America, the internet is freedom.

Coming from a place where freedom is not established the way it is in the U.S. led Chan to recognize how valuable freedom is.

“Freedom is not a must,” Chan said. “Living (in) America now we have the freedom to do whatever we want. But in China, Hong Kong, some places, they (don’t) have the freedom.”

Chan hopes that both American and international students will not take freedom for granted by recognizing how special it really is.

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