Theme III, Do-overs: American Experience

By Lingyi Hou

I still remember the first day I arrived in New York — A sweet wind blowing in the August noon, sitting in the car and looking out the window, across a bridge to the high-rise buildings on the other side of the river. I took a deep breath of the freedom pervading the air of New York and told myself, “Hello America, I am coming again.”

1st Ave, Manhattan. Photo by Lingyi Hou

1st Ave, Manhattan. Photo by Lingyi Hou

I had been in the United States for a one-year exchange study from August 2012 to May 2013 in Marietta College, Ohio. That was the first time I visited America, so everything was totally new for me. I was so curious, as well as puzzled, about my new life. During that year, I mainly focused on my academic study and pushed myself to achieve a 4.0 GPA, but I didn’t assign enough time to socialize with people and make foreign friends. I never got deeply involved in American culture, or made much cross-cultural communication.

Everyday, I just studied very hard in the library and tried my best to deliver good results for the classes I had taken. I didn’t join any social clubs or hang out with people from different countries. Although I participated in an “American Pioneer Culture Program” to volunteer for a kindergarten in the community and two regional Model United Nations Conferences, I didn’t leverage those opportunities very well to network with people.

And though I had an American roommate, I didn’t really make much of an effort to know her and the culture behind her. I still spent most of my spare time to hang out with Chinese friends. Probably, the only thing that made me feel a little cheerful was that I built a long-term relationship with my American “mother,” Janet, through Marietta’s mentor family program for international students. But that’s far from enough for me to really understand American culture.

Photo by Lingyi Hou

Photo by Lingyi Hou

I deeply regretted this after I came back to China last year. Because when I came back to China, I found that there was no such opportunity anymore for me to make international friends and learn about their different cultures or enhance my cross-culture communication capability. Also, when I was working in Qualcomm and Fleishman-Hilliard as a Public Relations intern, I strongly felt my shortage in English real-life communication might limit my career potential in the future.

For example, when we set up a video roundtable conference for the CEO of our American headquarters to inform Chinese reporters about the latest dynamics of our company, a public relations manager has to be capable of bridging their conversations and interpreting the CEO’s ideas accurately to the reporters, as well as offering precise media feedback to the CEO, which would require in-depth understanding of American business and the thought patterns associated with it.  But without hands-on multicultural communication experiences, it is pretty hard for a person to enhance that kind of ability. At that moment, I realized that only real-world practice could equip me with this communication skill rather than pure academic study.

So in this time, driven by an unprecedentedly, overwhelmingly strong motivation to learn diverse culture, cross-cultural communication, and manage the unique resources offered by this abroad graduate study, I am ready to go all out to network with people of different backgrounds, dive deep into American culture with its arts, music, and manners, and further develop my personal interests in a different environment. I do believe I can embrace another change in my life in New York and attain a totally new experience than last time.

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Photo by Lingyi Hou

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