Chinese Radio-Television-Film Graduate Heads to Los Angeles
- Jun 9, 2023
- Alex Briseño
[Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of Texas Global’s miniseries celebrating a few of the many outstanding international graduates who leave a lasting impact on their UT Austin community.]
Junfeng Li, a recent Class of 2023 graduate, spent the first 18 years of his life in China before arriving in the United States to study at The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Radio-Television-Film.
Li said he experienced minor culture shock, which typically comes with transitioning into a new culture, a new education system and a new country thousands of miles away from his home and family in Beijing. But he commends UT Austin and Texas Global for providing the resources that allowed him to acclimate shortly after his international move.
“For me, Texas was a strange place at that time. I just knew it was famous for barbeque. I didn’t know what people were like in Texas, and I especially wasn’t familiar with what college in the U.S. would be like — UT Austin is a huge school,” Li said. “However, the transition was pretty smooth, thanks to Texas Global’s orientation specifically for international students, along with numerous other organizations that make sure your transition goes smoothly from your home country.”
He added, “Most importantly is that all of the people I’ve met in Texas, especially in Austin, have been extremely friendly. Coming from a different country, people were just incredibly welcoming to me.”
Once he adjusted to speaking English every day — and the larger serving sizes in U.S. dining rooms — Li quickly embraced his new life as a Longhorn.
It was the prestige of UT Austin and the Moody College of Communication, along with the city of Austin’s thriving media and technology industries, that brought Li to the Forty Acres. But, he added, it was the vast number of opportunities he discovered that allowed him to build a community, explore numerous career paths and maximize his four years on campus.
“As the president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, I was able to celebrate my cultural background here at UT Austin,” Li said. “My time here also helped me dive deeper into media industries and develop new interests in marketing, data analysis, media management and entertainment.”
Li credits Moody’s robust Radio-Television-Film Department for piquing several new interests, which played a factor in his decision to pursue a master’s degree in communication management at the University of Southern California this fall.
During Commencement week 2023, Texas Global caught up with Li to reflect on his four years on the Forty Acres and discuss his exciting future in Los Angeles.
What led you to pursue a Radio-Television-Film degree?
I joined the campus television station in high school. I was involved for four years, so I started submitting most of my college applications to film schools. The biggest thing that brought me to UT Austin was the reputation of the Moody College of Communication and its Department of Radio-Television-Film.
UT Austin offers a really good film program, and it’s not nearly as expensive as other schools. Another important reason that went into my decision is the significant portion of the program that is dedicated to media studies. It’s really comprehensive. In addition to film, there are plenty of opportunities to study marketing, media studies and branding. It’s a unique program, so I’m really glad I chose UT Austin and that UT accepted me. Now, I am heading to graduate school, where I will primarily focus on marketing, entertainment and media management.
The food in Texas is different from what you grew up with in Beijing. What are your thoughts on Austin’s food scene?
I noticed a change in my appetite when I first came to Austin. I noticed everything really is bigger in Texas, and I started eating a lot. I was pretty skinny before I came to Texas, but I definitely gained a few pounds after spending some time here. But that’s all right with me; there is a lot of good food here.
I’m not the type of person that is super into Mexican food, which there obviously is a lot of here. But I found that tacos are pretty good. Most cultures have something similar, like wraps or rolls. I’m from northern China. We have noodles and plenty of wheat-based meals, so tacos were pretty good to me.
What will you miss the most?
During my time here, I got to travel to other cities and surrounding towns. Every time I came back to Austin, I felt like I was coming home. It’s a magical city. I’ve been to Los Angeles and New York City, but in Austin you can find your pace.
You can go to the Colorado River or boating if you want a relaxing weekend, but you can also explore the nightlife and just about any hobby you find yourself interested in. Whatever lifestyle you want to lead, Austin provides you with the opportunity and atmosphere that is open to all. That’s what I am going to miss the most. In Austin, it doesn’t feel like time flies here. You get to find your niche.
What do you consider your most rewarding experience at UT Austin?
For Chinese New Year, we had around 400 people sign up to attend the most recent spring festival. So, I decided to write an email to President Jay Hartzell. I asked him if he could learn a sentence in Chinese and say it at the end of the video. He actually did it. He responded to my email and sent over a video celebrating Chinese New Year.
It was a touching moment. When you see the president of your university not only accepting an invitation to a Chinese New Year event but trying to learn a sentence in your language, it’s just a wonderful gesture. It’s one of the most memorable moments from my time here.
In this organization, we can be a harbor for Chinese students because it’s a safe bet to meet people from similar cultural backgrounds. To see our culture celebrated in this way, by the president and non-Chinese students as well, that’s different. That’s another level of support. It felt like the entire UT Austin community — faculty, staff and students — truly celebrated Chinese culture. I never expected him to even respond to my initial email. I share this story with a lot of my friends at other schools. They were just as surprised as I was.
What is your advice to incoming international students?
Although UT Austin is a huge school with such a large population, there are a lot of opportunities here. People are really inclusive. Don’t be shy. If you want to be a research assistant, send some emails and make connections. If you are concerned about your grades, reach out to your professor. The faculty and staff here understand a lot of what you are experiencing, and they will support you and your ambitions.
Get out of your comfort zone. There are so many resources and opportunities that are included in your tuition fees alone. Set out to find your own pace. Enjoy the moments you have here, because whenever you look back, you’ll realize all of your experiences here will transform you into the person you’ve become when you graduate.