Siqi Wang

E.g., Friday, November 28, 2014
E.g., Friday, November 28, 2014

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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In ancient China, marriage is always fixed by your parents. Normally, it takes six etiquettes to become a legal couple. The first stage is to propose. The boy’s family needs to invite a matchmaker (In Chinese, meipo) to propose the marriage to the girl’s family. Once it’s a successful match, the dual families need to give presents to show their gratitude toward the matchmaker. Before this, the boy and girl have not seen each other.

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Americans are not the only ones excited about Halloween today. I know I speak for Chinese students when I say many of us are really looking forward to the evening's festivities. My friends and I want to carve our own "jack-o'-lantern," dress up, and attend parties.

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Page. Pitch. Peach. Three words, three very different meanings. But do you think I can pronounce them very well? Let’s just say it took a lot of practice — and I’m still having trouble with the middle one. I’m told that Americans don’t have the same trouble with these words. But for a Chinese speaker such as me, the vowels prove to be very difficult.

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What I have learned living in Iowa is that no matter where you live, geography does not affect your musical taste. My older cousin Sizhao Wang, living in Xi’an, China, is an example of this. The 24 year-old has a bedroom full of posters of Usher. He has every CD, knows every song, and even took an airplane to see the live concert held in Beijing several years ago. But being 8,000 miles away means he has to wait a couple months to buy the CD, he can’t go to a concert very often, and he can’t buy a celebrity magazine to read the gossip. Yet with all these obstacles, my cousin still loves Usher.

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Recently, I watched a friend’s parent arrive on campus to help him move from one apartment to another. The scene made me recall my former life with my own parents, my family, and my hometown, Xi’an, China. It has been three years since I moved away from my home. Before I turned 18 years old, I never lived away from my family — my school was a mere five-minute drive from my home.

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Recently, I got a phone call from one of my best friends since high school. She lives in China and attends university in Beijing. After our chat, I started thinking about the differences between college life for a Chinese student here and in China. As an international student, I love my life in Iowa City and the American opportunities I have to experience. Still, I embrace my Chinese roots.

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In China, we order our dormitory food rather than choosing different kinds of food from a buffet. So American dormitory food is definitely more complex than Chinese. But the type of food is limited because only American options are available. I think it is better to add more types of food to the buffet, because more international students are coming here. Now, I’ve been here for three years and love everything about Iowa. But I am still on the journey to find different types of American food to eat.

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