Can you imagine leaving your country for a foreign land? Think of the changes you would be forced to make learning a new language, adopting to a different culture, making new friends — the list goes on and on. Sylvia, a Chinese citizen by birth, came to America one and a half years ago to finish her master’s degree and, as Sylvia says, “to experience the real USA.”
When Sylvia came to the United States, she found that the influence of American pop culture on China helped her adjust to American culture more quickly. “We grew up drinking Coke, wearing Nike and Converse, [and] watching Spider-Man,” Sylvia states.
Even the difference between languages was more easily overcome than one might think, since in China, learning English is mandatory. Students begin studying English in third grade. The most difficult communication problem Sylvia faces is the difference between “textbook” English and the English that Americans speak every day. “American people speak so fast with slang. That’s totally different from my textbook!” exclaims Sylvia.
Although adopting American culture and learning the English language may seem like the two most difficult adjustments, Sylvia says that the lack of transportation is not to be overlooked. “[A] personal vehicle is more reliable than public transportation. To prevent shuddering in the snow, my life is always [spent] running to catch a bus.”
Since coming to America, Sylvia has learned to appreciate her own culture all the more. One of the most obvious differences between Chinese and American culture is the bond within families. “[In China],” Sylvia says “[a] family get[s] together much more often, virtually every possible holiday and weekend.”
Many American family members live so far apart that they see each other yearly. Sylvia notes that Chinese are more group-oriented and willing to sacrifice individual desires for the desires of the whole group, while Americans are more independent.
In her year and a half in American, Sylvia has seen much of American culture. Her favorite characteristic of Americans is their friendly nature. “People, even strangers, greet each other on the road,” Sylvia says. In China, this friendly nature would be considered forward, but in America, it is common.
When asked about the adaptation she has made since coming to America, Sylvia responds that she has learned to be frank. “Chinese use the ‘detour’ way of speaking. But not I am as direct and abrupt as my American friends,” observes Sylvia.
She has also learned how to be more flexible. “Life here is extremely dynamic. American people like changes [more] than any other living ‘species’ on the earth!” exclaims Sylvia. Although happily making adaptation since her arrival in the United State, Sylvia states that the only irreplaceable item is the Chinese food!
Even though challenging adjustments are necessary when moving to another country, Sylvia believes the experience is beneficial. “You can [learn] a new language and make new friends. You will also appreciate diversity, expand horizons, and develop a sense of community.”
Rebekah Kimble is a freshman at Schenectady Christian School