International students will always have a place to call home at the University of Minnesota Crookston. Coming from China, and later a junior college in California, Silas Xia was welcomed to campus and has continued to grow and adapt to his environment. His time at school in China was difficult. He would spend three to four hours per night trying to finish an intense workload. He knew coming to America would provide him with a great education while giving him the free time to enjoy being a college student and focus on basketball, too. He was recruited to play basketball at UMN Crookston in 2019. He was attracted to the University of Minnesota degree and the availability of his major, software engineering, as well as his desired minor, sport and recreation management. 

His employment opportunities give him hands-on learning experience, his upper-level courses are more specific to his career aspirations, and the environment at UMN Crookston is cohesive and facilitates growth.

After being here for a couple years now, one of his favorite things about UMN Crookston is the impressive student to professor ratio. The small classes create a supportive environment and allow real connections with professors, his favorite being Associate Professor Eddie Walker II in his sport and recreation management courses. Even more, Xia enjoys the small town atmosphere. Crookston is much smaller than his hometown of Guangzhou, China, but the change has been a positive one. 

Xia’s dad has always been passionate about getting him to school in America. He did a lot of business in the United States and liked American culture, so he wanted his whole family to learn English when they were young. Xia has been learning English since he was in kindergarten. However, he has found some terms they learned are not appropriate to say here, so there can be a language barrier at times. He continues to work through it each day and learn more about the terms used in this area of the United States. Besides language, one of the biggest cultural differences he has noticed is Americans dipping their pizza in ranch. At first, he thought that was weird, but now he thinks it’s pretty good.

As far as his work on campus, he is a student employee at the Computer Help Desk and a front desk worker at the Wellness Center. His job with the Computer Help Desk is related to his major, which has been a great opportunity to gain experience in his field. It also enables him to learn more about computers and help other people when they experience technical issues. He enjoys learning how to fix these problems. When he encounters a new challenge he will look online to see if he can figure it out himself, or he will ask his manager, or call the UMN Twin Cities Help Desk. His job with the Wellness Center is an enjoyable experience because he has the opportunity to interact with a lot of people on campus. He is easy to talk to, which he finds to be a benefit for his position. He enjoys having a coworker at the desk with him, especially when a challenge comes up. If there is something he doesn’t know, odds are his coworker will be able to help, and vice versa. Kolby Castillo, the Wellness Center director, is also a great resource during his shifts and shows sincere interest in the employee’s academic and athletic careers.

Compared to his experience at his junior college, Xia feels he is being even more prepared for his future. His employment opportunities give him hands-on learning experience, his upper-level courses are more specific to his career aspirations, and the environment at UMN Crookston is cohesive and facilitates growth. This is especially true when it comes to his basketball team. They feel like one unit working toward the same goal, and they have gotten to know each other personally. The comradery of an athletic team in college is helpful to a student’s well-being. Especially being an international student, or even out of state, a team brings an immediate group of friends. Xia is confident in his academics and his work on campus, and the area he wants to gain more confidence in is his leadership ability. This team setting has allowed him to work on those leadership skills.

After graduating in the spring of 2022, Xia plans to head back to China and play basketball. His uncle is an agent who may be able to help Xia play for the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). He may end up joining preseason workouts with his hometown team, the Guangzhou Loong Lions, which would begin in late June or early July of 2022. This time period involves a lot of workouts with CBA teams who potentially want a player on their team. If basketball doesn’t work out, Xia hopes to start his career in the United States. Jobs in China are in high demand, making it difficult to find a decent job. His family could end up living here too, especially because of his dad’s love for America. It is clear to see Xia has come to love the small town offerings of the University of Minnesota Crookston. His willingness to adapt to living in a new country, let alone a small community, says a lot about his character. Fortunately, the welcoming and cohesive environment has made it enjoyable.

Written for the Winter 2022 Torchlight e-Newsletter.

Story Contact: Shawn Smith - - (218) 281-8414