Brenau Voices: Xu “Lilac” Kanjun

Mar. 1, 2022
Kelsey Podo

Xu “Lilac” Kanjun is painting her future’s canvas at Brenau

Living thousands of miles away from her home, family and friends in China, Xu “Lilac” Kanjun is forging her own path at Brenau University. 

The senior interior design major is finishing her senior year on the historic Gainesville campus, along with nine other Chinese students from Anhui Normal University. Despite the little sleep and hefty amount of assignments, Xu said every minute has been worth it. 

“This road is very difficult, but I want to choose. I want to be a designer,” Xu said. “ … A dream of mine is to come to the U.S.”

Xu has studied at Brenau for over a month, acclimating to life in Gainesville. So far, she said the biggest challenge has involved speaking in English and understanding lessons from professors. 

Xu said she eases the language barrier by using a translator app on her phone in class. However, it sometimes doesn’t pick up on the nuances of the English language. 

“I have a professor that speaks a lot in his class,” she said. “He’s very funny, and sometimes our classmates laugh. I’ll think, ‘What’s so funny? Why is he laughing?’”

After finishing her bachelor’s in interior design at Brenau, Xu said she intends to return to her hometown of Hefei in the Anhui province of China, and begin applying for graduate school landscape design programs, potentially in the U.S. Xu said her ultimate goal is to become a well-rounded interior designer with experience in both architecture and art. 

Painting by Xu Lilac Kanjun of fruit.
Painting by Xu “Lilac” Kanjun.

Growing up, Xu’s parents encouraged her to seek different interests, including dancing, piano and visual art. Xu said she took a strong liking to painting, which she has practiced and studied for more than 10 years.

Xu said she considered earning an art degree, but only foresaw a career in teaching art, a job she didn’t want to pursue.

“I just want to be a designer because it’s more creative and more challenging,” she said. 

Comparing Brenau to larger universities in her home province, Xu said she has noticed the huge difference between faculty and student relationships. She noted how special it felt to be recognized and acknowledged on campus by President Anne Skleder, something she had never experienced with leaders at other institutions. 

Xu said she is also grateful for her interactions with Jill DeMarotta, the chair of the interior design department.

“I really love my professor Jill, she’s super nice,” she said.

If Xu could give one piece of advice to Chinese students considering studying at Brenau, the senior said she would tell them to “just come here to see the big world, big city and big country.”

“See the difference between different cultures, China and America,” she said. “You’ll study a lot of things. You’ll have a lot of experience. It’s helpful for you. I really love to live here.”