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New school, new world

Chinese students overcome challenges and gain valuable experiences during their time at an American school

[This story is also available in Chinese]

“[In America], when a teacher gives you back an exam, they give it to you flipped over,’’ said LangTing Deng, who goes by Longine, a freshman Chinese exchange student at Minnehaha.

“In China, sometimes the teacher reads your score out loud. In that situation, if you have a bad score, it can affect your self-respect.”

Adjusting to life in a new country, in a new school, with new students and teachers isn’t easy.

Making these adjustments is even harder in a second language.

“I think that in the case of the Chinese exchange students, the hardest thing is language,” said Chinese teacher Ming Dong. “Because of the language differences, or the inability to understand what people are saying, you can’t communicate, you can’t do anything, it’s very hard. You often feel like you don’t have any friends and feel lonely.”

Certain subjects like history and Bible are especially difficult for some of the eight Chinese students attending Minnehaha this year,  since many of the terms aren’t words they had learned during their previous English studies.

When trying to read and understand history, many of the international students have to translate all of the terms in order to understand it.

This can be a very tedious process that can detract from the overall learning experience.

“[The hardest class is] World History. It has a lot of reading,” said Deng. “Reading is hard because it is history, and [has] many different words we didn’t memorize. It’s not a daily word, like the name of an ocean, the name of a culture, or the name of a kingdom. I have to memorize [the vocabulary] when I get the book and come back home.”

Aside from language barriers, another one of the difficulties they face in going to an American school is finding friends.

This can be especially challenging because many of the students have already known each other for many years.

“It is hard because at Minnehaha some of the students have known each other since kindergarten,” said freshman Qishuo Liang, who typically goes by Sam. “It is difficult because we have to talk to them in English.”

Some of the exchange students, however, aren’t finding it as hard to make friends and adjust to the many differences between Minnehaha and their school back home.

“It wasn’t really hard to make friends because I’m the type of person that has so many friends I sometimes can’t keep track,” said freshman Chinese exchange student SiCheng Wang, who goes by Messi. “It’s just American people’s names are hard to remember.”

However, despite all of the challenges they face, many of the exchange students see learning abroad as an in depth way to learn about other cultures.

Living in a different country is one of the best ways to learn about culture.

It is an opportunity to see firsthand how people from that area live their lives.

“The biggest difference is that American students are very nice to me, but Chinese students are typically busier and aren’t as outgoing,” said Wang.

Although Chinese and American cultures are very different, many of the Chinese exchange students are finding that they like American culture.

“I like the people here,” said Deng. “I like the way people communicate because here the people like to encourage you. For example, on the basketball team, even when you didn’t get the score, people say ‘nice shot.’ They will encourage you. That’s not very typical in China. Not that they don’t like to encourage you, it’s just not their way. It’s not their culture.”

One major thing that many of the students enjoy is all of the extracurricular activities Minnehaha offers.

Many of the Chinese students don’t have the opportunity to participate in many of these activities at their schools back home in China.

“American schools focus more on sports, music and art,” said Dong. “In China, because of the pressure, no one has as much time for music, art and sports.”

Everyone has their own struggles and challenges they face in their day to day lives.

Going to a new school can be hard. It might be hard to adjust to the new teaching methods or it might just be hard to find friends.

This is especially the case for some of the Chinese students. Getting to know some of the Chinese exchange students might be a good chance to not only make a new friend, but is also an opportunity to learn more about other cultures.

“I think everyone can befriend the Chinese students,” said Dong.

“If they did so, they would feel like a part of the school, they wouldn’t feel like it is hard to fit in with the American students.”

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About Annika Johnson

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