Student from China shares experiences from Rexburg

Isabel sits on a boat at a family event with all of her international student friends. Photo credit: Isabel Ding

Many BYU-Idaho students come from all over the world. They travel from countries as close as Canada and as far as Taiwan.

Chongfan Ding is one of those students. Ding goes by “Isabel” in the States, due to the fact that her name gets butchered by every person she meets who doesn’t speak Mandarin.

After leaving China to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United Kingdom, she heard about BYU-Idaho. She moved to Rexburg in 2019.

“I wanted to come to school in Rexburg because the classes are small,” Ding said. “I grew up in an environment where school was extremely competitive, and I didn’t want to go through that in my 20s. I experienced enough stress from it as a teenager, and I was tired of it.”

The last time Ding was able to go home was in 2019. She misses her parents greatly, but she understands the travel restrictions in place. Even though she hasn’t been home in two years, she tries to stay positive at all times.

“It’s not like everything is bad,” Ding said. “I do miss my family, but I was able to make so many amazing friends. My brother is also in Rexburg, and that makes the separation easier.”

Isabel poses while walking around Disneyworld
Isabel poses while walking around Disneyworld Photo credit: Isabel Ding

Ding enjoys being nice to everyone, even if they aren’t nice to her.

“She’s had people yell at her on the streets,” said Kara Munn, Ding’s roommate for a year. “When those Asian hate crimes happened in Atlanta, it got worse. People would yell at her and be racist as she was just walking down the street. It was sad to see, but she never let it put her down. She is like a light in this dark world.”

Ding works hard to make sure she doesn’t let people see her get affected by the hateful words that some people will shout at her.

“People yelling at me when I haven’t done anything is difficult,” Ding said.

This is Ding’s last semester at BYU-I, and she is excited to graduate. She is grateful that the last few years of working toward her bachelor’s degree will finally pay off. After graduation, Ding will move to the San Francisco area and get a job in her field.