Siqi Wang

I remember the first time I needed to pay an additional fee for a checked bag on the airplane. I was on a return flight to Iowa City when I was asked to pay $25 for my checked baggage. In China, this had never happened to me before, and the experience reminded me of the many differences between Chinese and American transportation.

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The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, allows both the country I’m from (China) and the country I currently live in (United States) to compete against each other in many different sports. But outside of this event, I have learned from personal experience the differences between Chinese and American sports.

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Before I came to the United States, I hadn't experienced the freezing cold temperatures as I recently have at Iowa. When I go outside, I have to wear three tops, three trousers, and even very thick socks to make sure I stay warm. During my three and a half years here, I've gradually become comfortable with the severe weather conditions. But in China, the weather is completely different, so it's taken a lot to get used to Iowa.

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The Chinese New Year is the most important Chinese holiday. The exact date depends on the traditional Chinese calendar — the Lunar Calendar, Nong Li — which was set by the 24 Solar Terms. These Terms help farmers know when it is best to plant their corps. The Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.

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This winter break, I was able to change some of my original opinions about the United States through a month of traveling. I had the chance to visit many places on the East Coast and spend time with my friends. First, Christmas was not what I imagined. I found there was almost no one on the streets, and it was even difficult to find an open restaurant, bar, or anywhere to stay during the night.

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This winter break will be different for me — it will be the first time I’ll spend it in the United States. Because of this, I suddenly realized it would also be my first American Christmas, and I have no idea what to expect. In China, we also celebrate Christmas but not like how most Americans celebrate.

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Social networks play a large role in the life of a college student. For me specifically, I have found my kindergarten friends through Chinese social networks, researched information on universities through Twitter, and even found an apartment through Facebook. On American social networks, people can say what they want and share opinions on various topics without being constrained. But in China, not all words can be said because the government controls our freedom of speech.

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Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving break? Did you eat well, rest well, and study well? For most American students, it seemed as if all of you went back home to your families to enjoy the annual feast, with turkey, mashed potatoes, and delicious pies. But most international students, including me, prefer to travel around the United States, even some of the world, because a 12-hour flight back home is kind of expensive.

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My initial impression of American fashion came from the television show “Gossip Girl.” I used to watch the series during high school when I was in China, and I was immediately attracted to the fashion. I thought everyone in the U.S. would dress this way and that fashion was everywhere. But when I arrived here, the fashion wasn’t exactly what I dreamed. I was disappointed by what I observed because fashion is, in fact, not everywhere. Instead, it is full of casual shirts, sweatpants, and slippers. As I’ve gradually begun to experience more of the United States, my mind has changed toward fashion, especially when comparing it with China.

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China has more than 5,000 years of history. Because of this, there is a lot of cultural heritage. An example of this is the four main classical novels about Chinese history. Journey to the West, which some Americans refer to as "monkey," was created by Wu ChenEn in the Ming Dynasty. The other three novels are Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of the Red Chamber, and Water Margin. All four books are regarded as "must-haves" for Chinese children.

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