Question #2: I’m an adopted Chinese-American. Will I be judged by my host family and natives in the country?

Question #2: I’m an adopted Chinese-American but have never been back to China and cannot speak any Chinese.  Will I be judged by my host family and natives in the country?  How can I cope with this?

Answer: To be completely honest, yes, you probably will get some strange looks from people because you look Chinese but cannot speak Chinese.  However, it is not as daunting as you probably imagine it to be.  People will initially look at you funny because you are speaking broken Chinese or are speaking English with other exchange students.  You just need to think of a response to the sometimes blunt question of “why can’t you speak Chinese?  You look Chinese!”  My response was always to laugh it off and say, “Yes, I am Chinese but I am an American.  I am studying Chinese abroad here.  What do you think of my Chinese?”  It’s actually pretty funny, because whoever asked the question will instantly change from judging you to praising you for your amazing effort and skill as a foreigner! – Tully, China Summer 2017

Question #1: How did you adjust to the initial culture shock of being in a foreign country with different people?

Question #1: I’ve never left the States before and am pretty nervous about going somewhere completely foreign.  From your experiences, how did you adjust to the initial culture shock of being in a foreign country with different people?

Answer: Everyone experiences culture shock in a different way and has different coping mechanisms.  That said, there are some general tips for dealing with culture shock that the most traveled person to someone who has never left the country can benefit from.  Going in with an open mind really makes the difference in adjusting to a new culture.  Rather than resisting things for being different than they are at home, keep an open mind and try them the way the host country does.  This will make you feel like less of an outsider.  Additionally, don’t hesitate to talk to your host family and friends from the foreign country about things that are different than they are at home.  Conversations about different cultures are not only interesting, but they can also help your host family and people around you help you adjust better. – Tully, China Summer 2017

Tully's entire NSLI-Y cohort pose for a group picture.

“But you look Chinese!?!”

Honking cars, loud street-food stands, busy people, and crazy busses.  Welcome to Zhuhai, China on an average day. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, waiting for the street light to change so I could cross the street, I look around at all the action of the city.  Everyone is walking, biking, and driving with a purpose – there is no wandering around during rush hour. And as I make my way to my bus stop, it dawns on me that I blend in with my surroundings. I too am walking with a purpose.  I too am getting on a bus to go to school. I too appear to know what I’m doing and act like I’ve been doing this my whole life. I too am half Chinese, and blend in with the public.

Read More »

The field where Alexi played soccer with her friends.

Countering Cultural Norms in a Positive Way: My Experience Playing Soccer on a Guys Team in South Korea

I am a soccer fanatic, a fervent lover of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, and a player myself since 2000. Soccer is key component of how I self-identify and effects with whom I am friends. Playing soccer in South Korea was an unexpectedly big challenge not because of aggressive players, cliquey teammates, or an injury. Instead, I encountered unforseen cultural expectations and societal norms disfavoring girls playing a physical sport. This post is about my experience joining a boy’s soccer team abroad, in absence of an equivalent girl’s team. I hope it encourages other NSLI-Y iEARN students to share their hobbies and join community-groups abroad despite the unanticipated challenges that may arise.

Read More »

Diana and her friends in front of a sign.

Relearning How to Learn at an Arabic School

During this past summer’s NSLI-Y program, I studied Arabic with seven other students. Even though I have been in schools and classrooms the vast majority of my life, I have never been in a classroom remotely similar to my classroom with NSLI-Y. I would walk to school everyday for about forty five minutes covering 1.8 miles or about 2 kilometers each morning. My formal classes for Modern Standard Arabic would last from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm with a break from 10:30 to 11:00 for Moroccan mint tea with lunch and varying language activities after lunch at 12:30 pm.

Read More »

Gliding through the Turbulence

The feeling one gets as an airplane glides downward, as if gravity is tugging at your core, mixed along with excitement and nervousness, is inexplicable. I was sitting next to my good friends Damare and Olivia as I arrived in Seoul. Amidst a long ride of meme-sharing and movie-watching, it was unbelievable that I was across the world. As I had never before left North America, being in South Korea was surreal. Prior to applying to NSLI-Y, I associated South Korea with crowds of people in surgical face masks and eccentric neon signs of stores at night. Although I saw plenty of this, my expectations were wildly superficial. Read More »