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Yile Gu and Jonathan Martin – Rose-Hulman sparks global friendship

May 26, 2012

Gu Martin in gowns with parents 300pxMany times it is the circumstances that we are in that create friendships. That can be said for Yile Gu and Jonathan Martin, both fast-track graduating seniors in chemical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

It was the Fast Track Calculus that first brought these two young men together three years ago - one from Nantong in Jiangsu Province, China, and the other from Indianapolis. "When you work in a group, you spend so much time together, so you get to know each other," Martin says.

The two were part of one group of the 50 or so incoming freshmen working on pre-calculus in five weeks at Rose-Hulman. Once the large group was pared down into smaller working groups, the pair found themselves working together. From there, the friendship grew.

While each has learned from the other, Gu loves to talk about how Martin and another Rose-Hulman student and friend, Jordan Chipka, taught him about baseball. Martin played baseball his freshmen year and is a "huge" Texas Rangers fan, since he's originally from Texas. And because the Rangers have been in the World Series the past couple of years, it was a good opportunity to teach Gu about baseball.

"I never saw baseball in China, so he taught me the rules," Gu says.

Gu, in return, taught Martin about Chinese culture and taught him some phrases in Chinese - including hi and thank you. Martin says he's also learning to write some characters. But that, he says, is much more difficult.

The two joined Chipka as roommates in an off-campus apartment after freshmen year. There the friendship grew, and Gu often spent school breaks staying with Martin and his family in Indianapolis.

"I've had a great time with them and it's been great living with them to see real life and learn," Gu says. 

At one point during the past three years, Martin's family was planning a trip to Cancun, so they asked Gu to go with them. "He had never been to Mexico, so he was excited," Martin says.

Then Gu wanted to return the favor. So, he asked Martin to go with him and his family to China.

That's the next big adventure for the two international friends. Gu's parents came to the United States to see their son graduate from Rose-Hulman, and to take a trip to the East Coast and also to visit Gu's next stop, Princeton University.

The family will celebrate the graduation with Martin's family at their Indianapolis home. And then, almost immediately, Martin will be flying off with Gu and his parents for a month's-long trip to China.

"It's the first time in his life he will go to China," Gu says excitedly. And Martin adds that it will be the biggest trip of his life.

"We'll be there about a month and he's planning to take me town-to-town, city-to-city," Martin says. "It's something I've always wanted to do and it was kind of a spur of the moment thing."

The two will then return to the U.S. where they will part ways to pursue their next adventures. Gu will be in a five-year MS/PhD. program at Princeton University's Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Martin will be working for Marathon Oil in Kentucky. However, the two say they are going to try to stay in touch and visit each other when they can, as well as Chipka who will graduate from Rose-Hulman next year.

"We're definitely going to try to stay in touch," Martin says.

"I made great friends here," Gu adds.