WEST ORANGE, NJ — Chinese exchange students from a high school in Hung-jo recently sat down with the West Orang High School (WOHS) newspaper staff to discuss their experiences living in American society.
The students arrived on Sept. 29 and spent the week attending WOHS classes, interacting with students, participating in extracurricular activities, and visiting Madison Square Garden in New York City for a New York Knicks preseason game.
The students expressed their thoughts on the various differences in individuals seen in a typical American high school.
“It seems that everyone has their own style of what they wear,” said one of the students. “[The student I stayed with] learned how to curl her hair in elementary school. [I] didn’t learn that until 18. American[s] are more open. In China, most parents don’t talk about things like romance.
“Diversity in America is not only the people, but in lifestyles. New York City skyscrapers. West Orange really lives different lives between people.”
Some students also found great interest in how teenagers in America do not often have adults constantly supervising their day-to-day lives.
“Here in America, teenagers are more independent,” one student said. “Maybe that’s related to the activities you have. Some parents in China try to decide what their children [are] going to be like. U.S. teens can choose their own life.”
Another student explained how American students “can be really enthusiastic to expand your own interests.”
“Knowledge in history and politics, what Chinese students cannot achieve,” the student said. “We spend too much time on classwork, so we cannot expand our interests.”
The students also expressed their excitement for the plentiful after-school activities. One such student expressed interest in a local playground.
“Americans have so much fun,” the student said. “[There are] many athletic teams, and most students can get involved in sports. We don’t have many athletic teams.”
The students’ visit opened an opportunity to bring two countries together and expand lingual and cultural awareness.
“Learning English was very difficult,” said one student. “We don’t have much grammar. English is hard to grasp. Chinese is difficult because [of the] different alphabet [and] letters. It’s really hard to get to know the strange things happening in English.
“Maybe grammar cannot represent whole language. It’s just a tool to learn about other countries. Depends on if we communicate well with other countries. How can we gain from this tool?”
Some Chinese exchange students are pictured above as they enjoyed many activities throughout West Orange and beyond.
This article was written by Joshua Baker, a West Orange High School senior participating in the TAPinto West Orange internship program.