Participant Stories from the International Friends Program – Cara You

Author name
Ling Jin
Cara You

Cara You was a graduate student in the Master of Quantitative Management Business Analytics program at Duke Fuqua School of Business. She is from Beijing, China and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Denver. Because of the recommendation of her favorite professor at University of Colorado as well as her love for Duke basketball, Cara chose to come and study at Duke. In Spring 2020, Cara participated in the International Friends Program and was matched with a Trinity undergraduate student K.

How did you find out about the International Friends Program and why did you decide to participate in the program?

I found out about the program on the IHouse website. I was looking for a language and culture exchange program because I wanted to practice my English and get to interact with American students.

What was your first meeting like?

I met with K in January at Broadhead Center. We talked nonstop for 2 hours and we were very happy to find out that we had lots of common things to talk about. We shared similar hobbies (food being one of them!), similar views on different topics, and even similar reasons for choosing to study at Duke. I also liked it that we both were open-minded and not judgmental. We genuinely enjoyed trying new things, listening to each other, and trying to understand each other. 

What has been your favorite activity you’ve done together? Where did you go and what did you do?

My favorite memory with K was the time when we went to the Wilson Gym and worked out together on a Friday afternoon. I have been a bodybuilder and marathon runner for many years but K never tried bodybuilding, so I did chest training with her and showed her how to use the machines and weights at the gym. Even though she was new to bodybuilding, she was very determined and didn’t give up easily, which was another similarity I found out between us. I wish we could have more time to work out together, but sadly everything was disrupted because of the pandemic.

What interesting things have you discovered or learned about your IFP partner?

I liked it that there was a positive feedback loop in all of our conversations and interactions. The more we talked, the more similarities we found. For instance, both of our moms love to buy clothes for us and decide our style. Once K sent me a picture of her wearing a cute blue dress which was perfect for her, and she told me that her mom bought it for her because “blue is for her.” That’s exactly the kind of things my mom would do!

Another thing that I admired about her – even though we were very different in that case­ – was that she was not afraid if she didn’t know something. For example, she mentioned she hadn’t decided what she wanted to do in the future, but she could remain confident and calm despite the unknowns. In contrast, I disliked and would get anxious about the feeling of not knowing. I learned a lot from her and from our conversation on this topic.

What pieces of advice do you have for others to make an IFP partnership successful?

  1. Be committed and take this seriously. Try not to keep postponing or be late to your meetings. Having the right attitude will help you in different ways. Once you are more familiar with each other, things will flow easily for you.
  2. Learn from each other proactively and push yourself out of your comfort zone intentionally.

Do you plan on keeping in touch with your IFP partner after this semester’s program ends?

Yes, we plan to keep in touch over Zoom.