Chen Yichen, from China, just finished one-month volunteering at International Institute of New England (IINE) in Manchester, NH as part of CHI’s Short Term Enrichment Program. The Institute of New England’s leadership assists 2000 refugees and immigrants in becoming productive and engaged members of the greater Lowell, Boston, and Manchester, New Hampshire communities. Chen shares, My American Experience.
MY AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
I will be leaving this city where I have lived for 4 weeks tomorrow. When I got outside for food this afternoon, I was hit by the thunderstorm, again, just as the first day I came to this country. That’s quite interesting that this city welcomed and said goodbye to me with the same thing, the heavy rain. Fortunately, I didn’t get wet this time, because I have become more familiar with this place, which enabled me to find a shelter asap. And, what is also more familiar to me than before is the people and the culture here.
I never regret that I took part in this program. I still remember the first week when I just arrived in this city that I was so disappointed because everything seemed so inconvenient for me. Then things got much better gradually. Maybe it’s because of the weather’s getting better, or because of the bike which saves me a lot of walking. But I think the most important reason is that I finally accept this city and the situation with an open mind. All of these are unique experience to me, which makes me more mature and learn how to handle unexpected things when they come.
I have been a volunteer English teacher in IINE, teaching people from different countries. Though I never expected to be a teacher before, I like the things I did. I teach students with different accents, different English levels and different beliefs. I volunteer with different teachers as well. We sit together in a same classroom and work together for the same purpose, to make each other a better person. That is what it matters. 4 weeks’ time is quite short for me to form a deep relationship with everyone. It was like I just understood a Nepalese student’s accent and I have to say goodbye to him tomorrow. But I do make good friends there. I taught a woman from Burkina Faso for more than 10 hours, and the day I left she said she’s going to miss me and even asked for my number and email. That’s quite inspiring for me.
In addition to the volunteer work, I did a lot of sightseeing. I went to two beaches with different groups, and I went to Boston and had a lot of fun there. America is very different from China, from the food to the measure units, almost everything. But I get used to it quite well. I suppose this is because there are always good people offering me help.
Almost everyone asks me if I will come back to United States in the future. I told them all that I was not sure. But now I am quite sure about one thing that if I get chance to be America again, I will definitely come back to this place, which left me such unique experience.