Miao first came to the United States three years ago. Before this time she did not speak English. After she spent one year studying at a high school in Pennsylvania, we crossed paths in none other than the gym class of the high school we both transferred to. She speaks impressively good English and I am amazed she learned so quickly. We became as soon as she reminded me that we met at new student orientation, and I thought everyone would want to hear about her story and learn about her culture. Here is how my interview with Miao, the bravest young woman I know, went down.
The questions started out basic and lame, but she told me to go for it.
Interviewer: “What’s your favorite American food?”
Miao: “I’m sure I don’t have one.”
Interviewer: “What’s your favorite Chinese food?”
Miao: “There are too many different types to know…. This is why I have to tell everyone the food made by my mom. My mom is a good cook. For me it’s like she’s good at everything except learning languages.”
She told me about how busy her mom is and how she doesn’t know how she can deal with everything. She joked that “without my mom our whole family would fall apart.” Her mom works at her dad’s landscape engineering company and holds a very high position. She’s an inspiration to Miao because she left home at a young age and gained abundant social experience running a business. While she didn’t have a high education, she made a living for herself and has worked her way to the top.
Miao, just like her mom, has left home at a young age, but in search of education. I asked her about her goals and reasons for coming to America. She said there were so many factors for coming here, and it was definitely her decision. There were two main reasons.
Ciel: “I have been to different schools in China, a regular Chinese middle school and an international school. The same thing in both schools is that students are rivals to each other because we have ranking by grades every month. Rank and grades in the school are so important. Higher rank equals winner. I disliked this thought so much and I usually felt that I couldn’t fit the environment.” She went on, “I guess it's because I was born like I can’t endure such environment. But I admire and respect students who grow in that environment so much. They have real perseverance and have done what I cannot do.”
In addition to the different learning environment, she stressed how there are more opportunities than in other countries here.
“There is more freedom to do what I want to do in the future here. We don’t have as many choices in China, and it’s harder there.”
She says she will keep working harder at her goals here.
I wanted to know what was hard about her first year here or most notable, and Miao said it just so unfamiliar. I asked what was so unfamiliar and she responded that it was how people acted in public areas.
Miao: “Most people here try to keep quiet on the phone and in the market, but people talk loud on the phone in the stores and kids are loud in China! It is so quiet here in the stores!”
Interviewer: So, how did you react to the presidential election?
Miao: I’m going to China right now and I’m never coming back.
Interviewer: Do you have any thoughts about the moral codes of respect for your elders?
Miao: I hold different opinion than what people commonly think at present. In Chinese, there is a specific world Xiao that probably doesn’t exist in other languages to represent the respect for elders. For me and my family, it is just taking care of elders in the family. So it is basically a good thing. However, it has become the obligation in morality utilized by the society, especially social media that forces people to be dutiful and responsible for their parents. I think that if parents were nice to their kids, the kids would be nice to them when the kids grew up. But many people still think that the children being dutiful to them is a natural thing,whatever how they treat the children.
Interviewer: Is it true that you’re not allowed to have any siblings? What’s that like?
Miao: We can have. I do have a brother 9 years younger than me. In the past, the family has to pay a large amount of money to the government for more than one child. Last year or this year the maximum was changed to 2.
Interviewer: Do you miss your home town?
Miao: My home is the best place in China. It is warm and wet and the air quality is good. It is always so warm and wet all over. Except in the winter. Then it gets super cold, but no snowing no matter how cold.
Interviewer: Are building structures pretty similar here?
Miao: Everyone lives in apartments in high buildings because we are so overpopulated. If you are rich you can buy a single house.
Interviewer: Have your classes been hard?
Miao: Not at all. For me, it is easier to keep everything in English in my head and not translate to Chinese because there are so many words that don’t translate. But in math I cannot do the numbers in English! I do the numbers in my head in Chinese.”
Miao is an inspiration to anyone of perseverance and assertiveness. She knows what she needs and uses her resources to do the best she can do and persevere through all of her choices and adventures. I think a lot of people overlook the foreign exchange or international students at their schools if they aren’t overly talkative or outgoing, but everyone has a story and most everybody wants to be your friend if you give them a chance. Sometimes you just might have to meet them a little more than half way, because, are you the one studying in a foreign country, speaking a different language, and living without your parents? Didn’t think so.