How a chance meeting changed Nan Luo’s life

Three years ago, on an overnight train to Beijing, a stranger told Nan Luo he would change her life. This began her journey to Miami.

Luo, known to her American friends as Ronan, started her college career as an English major at the Jiangsu Institute of Technology. She thought her life had two paths: work as a translator or as an English teacher, but she wasn’t really interested in either.

“I thought that my future was not that bright.” Luo said. “So, I considered transferring.”

In China, one cannot transfer from one school to another, but a transfer out of the country is possible. So, Luo began to research studying abroad in English-speaking countries. After persuading her father she would have a higher quality of education and the chance to expand her horizons elsewhere, she was accepted to the University of Melbourne in Australia.

To study abroad, many Chinese students first need to pass the International English Language Testing System or IELTS. To prepare for the test, Luo enrolled in an English language school in Beijing. The train ride there was an experience she will never forget.

“That night, I remember,” she said. “It was December 28th, almost the end of 2015. Because the trip was overnight, you could talk with many people, and so we talked about studying abroad. One person, a maybe 40-year-old man, told me ‘if you’re considering studying abroad, just go to America rather than Australia because they do have a better education.”

That night Luo reflected on her childhood dream to travel to the United States. She hadn’t applied to schools in America because she was afraid she wouldn’t get in to any good universities.

“So, I told myself, ‘Maybe you can get in. Just try it, don’t be afraid,” she said.

Luo took the IELTS in Beijing and came back home to tell her father she wanted to study in America.

“At first, my father was so angry,” Luo said. “He said, ‘Why do you change things so quickly? Yesterday you want to go to Australia, today you want to go to America. Maybe tomorrow you want to go to the United Kingdom.’”

But, he came around when Luo pointed out that it’s better to change directions when you know something is wrong rather than to insist on the wrong thing. Soon after, she got an offer from Miami.

“I Googled everything,” she said. “I knew Miami [was] really high quality for undergraduate study and that our campus is really beautiful. That was kind of one of my dreams — to go to a really beautiful campus.”

Luo’s can-do spirit and belief in serendipity has served her well through her first two years at Miami.

“The funny thing is that man [on the train] told me, ‘Believe me, I will be the person that will change your life,” she said. “And that was the truth.”

It hasn’t always been easy for her at Miami, though. Last semester, she received a poor grade on the midterm exam in a strategic communications class, Luo’s major. She went to ask the professor for suggestions on improving her grade. He told her to change her major, saying strategic communications is too complex for international students.

“I felt really bad,” she said. “I think that a professor should encourage students to do what they love. I didn’t know how to tell him. I just said that I like this major. I wouldn’t change it, and if you don’t have suggestions, I can work it out by myself.

“Sometimes you just don’t need to listen,” she added.