After attack, international student discovers her strengths

Katherine Klingseis

Tania Xu Yar Lee, who was born and raised in Malaysia, came to Iowa State last fall. She chose Iowa State over Ohio State University, Purdue University and Southern Illinois University.

She narrowed down the list to Iowa State and Ohio State. She said she decided to attend Iowa State because she had a friend from Malaysia who was already attending Iowa State.

“I didn’t know anyone at Ohio State University, and I had no one to refer to,” Lee said. “But at Iowa State, I had [a friend]. He was the only person I knew, and I had been contacting him asking him how Iowa is.”

Lee said that she enjoys living in Iowa. She explained that people in Iowa are very different than people in Malaysia.

“People here are really nice compared to Malaysia,” Lee said. “The environment is much more laid back and relaxing compared to where I’m from. I actually like it here better.”

When she came to Iowa State last fall, Lee wanted to study psychology. However, Lee is a government-funded student, and, as she has it, the government prevented her from studying psychology. She then switched to kinesiology, which, by her account, the government also prevented her from studying. She eventually decided to pursue nutrional science. 

“The only thing left is probably nutrition,” Lee said. “So, it’s like, ‘OK, they approve nutrition.'”

Due in part to a recommendation from a friend, Lee decided to live in Fredericksen Court. She said that she was happy with her choice.

“I think [Fredericksen Court] is the best option of all on-campus housing because … it’s a fully furnished apartment. You can cook,” Lee said. “And there’s more flexibility, I suppose.”

Lee said the roommate she lived with during the fall and spring semester was very passionate about Hapkido. She persuaded Lee to try Hapkido.

“She kind of forced me to join Hapkido during the summer because I told her I was bored,” Lee said. “So, she was like, ‘OK, you’ve got to join Hapkido. You’ve got to go for two classes at least, and then you can decide if you like it or not.'”

Her roommate’s persuasion worked, and Lee went to a few Hapkido classes. However, she actually became interested in learning another martial art.

“One day, I came early and I saw Judo, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is interesting,'” she said. “So for the next class I went … to try out Judo as well, and I really liked Judo. I liked that better than Hapkido.”

Lee said that Hapkido did not come naturally to her. She said that she became interested in Judo almost immediately.

“It’s like wrestling. I like doing stuff like that,” Lee said. “It’s more like doing fun stuff instead of actually protecting myself.”

Lee only attended one Judo class, but the moves she learned in that class helped her protect herself when a stranger entered her apartment and began choking her. She said she used her legs to restrain her assailant.

“Actually, what I was doing when the attack happened was Judo, not Hapkido,” she said. “The thing is, I only had like one Judo class; I had more Hapkido classes.”

Although Lee said she did not begin martial art classes to learn self-defense, a move she learned in one allowed her to do exactly that. She said that she is no longer taking any martial arts classes, but she plans to resume them in the fall.

Lee recommends that students take martial arts classes. She said that they are fun, but also help people learn how to protect themselves.

“If I didn’t take that class, I wouldn’t have known what to do,” she said. “I think that helped a lot, actually.”

Lee plans to graduate in two years. After graduation, she intends to return to Malaysia.

“I would like to come back to Ames though,” she said. “I really like it here.”