Interview with Xiang from China

This week on the Bridges Blog we wanted to get to know you, our reader, a little bit more. So we’ve started by interviewing students involved with Bridges around the U.S. Here is our second interview post.

Introduce yourself. What is your first name, what is your major, what is your school, where are you from?
My name is Xiang, and I will be graduating at the end of this year from The University of Michigan with a degree in Economics. I took a gap year after studying accounting in Hong Kong. I come from a city in the North of China.

What was your first impression of the USA?
The country is so diverse, there are people who come from many different walks of life. I was at first a part of a Global Scholars Program, and there were people from different countries and races involved. Everyone’s voice was heard and respected. I saw the U.S. was a place where you could just be you.

There is a very strong presence of self-identity here. Back home, there is a collective identity; everyone else comes first, and then comes you. I saw that, in the U.S., you can choose what you wanted to do or be, and others will respect you for that.

People here are really friendly. People gave me a ride to introduce me to campus. They were so friendly and chill. Now, when I see someone else who is lost or needs help, I go and help them.

What is the biggest difference you have noticed between your culture and American culture?
The first thing would be food. I really, really like spicy food. I grew up eating it. That kind of spicy is different than the spicy here. (I’d say it’s more of a Mexican spicy here.) I find it sad to not find the spicy from home here. But I try to find that spicy flavor as much as I can, especially when traveling to other cities.

What advice would you give to an international student who is coming to the USA for the first time?
First is just be confident. For someone whose first language is not English, we worry a lot about making mistakes when we speak in classes and other settings. Be willing to make mistakes.

Also, be proud of your cultural identity. I am so proud of being Chinese. In my first year of being in Michigan, I felt like I wanted to be American. When I was talking with American friends, I thought, I needed to know a lot about American football or the things they might talk about. While I wanted to learn about American culture, I realized I didn’t have to know everything, and I could be ok with who I was. I also thought about how China has 5,000 years of history, and thought, “Wow! That is really cool!” I became dedicated to sharing my cultural reality with others and what China is like now.

Has being involved in Bridges helped you? How?
I feel like it is a really caring community. We learn one another’s stories.They’ll be there to help you, whether you need help academically or spiritually. It’s a family for us while we’re away from our family. They welcome us to celebrate holidays together like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Bridges treats people equally. There are people from a variety of backgrounds, but everyone can feel welcomed and respected. Hearing questions and stories from friends from Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and non-religious backgrounds is a great way of learning more, and helps me grow in understanding what I believe as a new Christian.

It’s also really fun. We get to act like kids again and laugh together. And I really enjoy this!


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