The opportunity to come to the United States and spend a year here was something that I could not pass up. As an individual of Chinese background, I grew up on the opposite side of the world. We periodically learned of Chinese-American relations and the US but the last year that I have spent in the US has given me first hand experience of life in America. In this brief paper, we will discuss my experiences as an exchange student living within the United States.
American high school life is filled with fun and happiness. Students in America have a variety of activities in high school, such as playing sports, going to prom with friends, and a variety of other school activities. High school life is very different in the US versus China. In China, there is a lot of pressure and competition to obtain a seat for higher-level academics (Jianyu, 2010). In the US, these same pressures exist, but there are also other factors that build camaraderie with fellow students. I will never forget my experiences playing sports and going to prom.
There are a lot of cultural differences between China and the US. When I first came here, I was a little bit worried about these cultural differences and if I would fit in. Everything in America is different. First, the pace of life is slower in the US. China is all about action and people are buzzing everywhere. Life in America is calmer and, in a sense, free. Second, I was surprised to find that Americans are very open and friendly. Although I look different, speak different, and have different traditions, most Americans welcomed me with open arms. I made a lot of friends over the past year and I most definitely plan on keeping in touch with them. Third, the air and roads in the US are so clean and efficient compared to China (Wines, 2009). It blew me away how organized and civil the drivers here are. It is clear that the experiences I have had in the US helped to solidify my understanding of American culture. There is only so much that one can learn in textbooks and on TV before he or she has to experience America first hand.
Learning English is very difficult but I have worked hard and improved my writing skills. Again, there is only so much English that one can learn from a textbook or from a classroom about English (Romow Education Blog, n.d.). The last year has been a language immersion and I have learned a tremendous amount of information. Furthermore, I also picked up on some key differences between British English and the US English (Michigan Proficiency Exam, 2010). At school in China, we often learn British English so it was great to experience the subtle differences between the two.
Lastly, my experience with my host family has been excellent. They treated me with respect, gave a very comfortable place to stay, and included me in their family activities. In many ways, the experiences that I had with my host family solidified my understanding of American culture and English.
Overall, my experiences over the past year have been wonderful. American high school life is full of activities and fun, the friends that I have built have been amazing and will hopefully stand the test of time, my understanding of America has grown tremendously, being immersed in the culture has helped me to learn English well, and my host family was very welcoming. I will leave America with a very positive understanding of what it means to be American.