My American Experience: Answering Questions About America

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Echo came to the United States hoping to answer some specific questions.  She wanted to know, “What is American host family culture?  Can I handle this long journey alone?  Are Americans all rich and all live in a big villa? Does American life look like Hollywood movies?  What can I learn from this program?”

Echo got the chance to answer some of these questions when she participated in CHI’s Short-Term Enrichment Program.  She spent her time volunteering at American-Canadian Genealogical, in Manchester, NH.

Here is what Echo learned:

My American Experience: Answering Questions About America

First-time travel abroad by myself

To be honest, before I start off, I had trouble falling asleep because of this journey. Because this will be my first time travelling by myself and first time going abroad. I was both excited and nervous about this “challenge”. Fortunately, all the way to America, I’ve met lots of lovely people. There’s this professor who comfort me when our airplane shakes because of the turbuliance; there’s this airport staff who helped me check in earlier so I can find a hotel near the airport; there’s a gentlemen who showed me how to buy a temporary credit card; there’s a passenger who helped me find the schedule of the shuttle to the hotel. I was taught to be independent and careful as I grow up. But here in America, I feel no more embarrassed to ask strangers for help. People are caring and always ready to help. And that’s my first impression of this country.

American host family culture

Florentina is my host mom and a lovely lady. Being with her, I got my second lesson of American culture: embrace the difference. Florentina is from Romania, but it didn’t take me long to find a common interest with her: She loves Spanish movies and I found a Turkish movie very attractive. We discuss the plots all the time and sometimes she’ll tell me some historical stories of Spain, Turkey or other eastern European countries. She’s very knowledgeable about history, of which I’m always been interested.  Surrounded by these different languages and cultures, now I have a more open view of the differences of cultures. Different races do not stop us from being caring, sensitive and sympathetic. It is the sincerity in communication and caring for each other that matters.

Genealogy and my work at ACGS

To be honest, before I went here, I knew little about genealogy. Muriel (my mentor) knows a lot about the history and the genealogy of French-American immigrants. She showed me what genealogy is like and how they do those researches.  The staff and volunteers are very friendly and love making jokes. My third lesson in America actually comes from these lovely people in ACGS. Although they’re older than me, I feel like being surrounded by friends of my age. Speaking of genealogy, they are so professional and passionate. In China, few people at this age do I know can be so passionate of something.  I sincerely hope to be as passionate as they do at their age. Another treasure that I got from ACGS is their recognition and respect and my oral English has been strongly improved.

Trip to North Coast of Boston

My trip to the north coast was a real adventure. It’s Muriel, my mentor at ACGS, and her friend who drove me all the way by the north coast of Boston. Our first stop is Salem, an old city covered with the myth of witches. However, what impressed me most is an old Chinese building called “yin yu tang”(荫余堂) in Peabody Essex Museum. It’s amazing to run into something of my country in the other side of the traditional Chinese way of record the genealogy. Isn’t it amazing, to find this connection between old and new, between China and America! The seascape of the north coast is breath-taking. After the visit to Peabody Essex Museum, we spent the rest of the day chasing the sun by the coast. We’d seen the coast in the light of sunset, the coast where the sea kisses the melting snow; the coast where Merrimack River meets the Atlantic Ocean. I would always recall the wonderful seascape that I’ve seen that day in the rest of my life. My host organization treated me to both trips to Boston and for my big lobster dinner. The lobster was bigger than my head! They are so kind!

As a French major student

I love making different choices. I’ve chosen French instead of other more “promising” majors for my university. I’ve come to America instead of France for my vacation. I want to jump out of the comfort zone and face these challenges”. And by participating in this program, I’ve got what I want. It feels so good to be capable of solving problems in English in the US; it feels so good to make friends with people from all over the world; it feels so good to grow up independent.

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