Zhang Adjusts to Chinese/U.S. Cultural Differences

Zhang Adjusts to Chinese/U.S. Cultural Differences

Elizabeth Bolin, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

One of Notre Dame’s best qualities is the number of exchange students that come from different countries and backgrounds to study in America.

YunMei Zhang, an exchange student from Shandong (in Northern China), chose to study in the U.S. for many reasons.

“My aunt lives here, so it’s a good opportunity for me to experience a different culture, but honestly the reason I chose to go abroad was because I broke up with my friend, and I wanted to have a new life and a new start,” she said.

Zhang has been a part of the exchange program for two years and is an IB diploma student. When she first came to America, she had lots of questions: “Why is this school so cold? Where did the bus go? Why is the Chinese food so different?”

“In China, only the police have guns, and in Wisconsin people wear t-shirts in cold weather,” said Zhang.

America is a big country like China, and the citizens both share modern lifestyles due to globalization, but that is where the similarities end.

“Most of our houses aren’t made out of wood,” she said, “and food is so different here, even the Oreo tastes sweeter!”

Zhang said the biggest culture shock was the food.

“My uncle eats tomatoes with salt! In China, we eat it with sugar. And I don’t understand why you put butter on sweet corn? Corn is sweet and butter is salty!”

For Zhang, the hardest part of being an exchange student is the language barrier.

“Every biology class, math class, theology class, everything includes English. It’s like two classes in one! Nobody will stop for you.  They just keep moving onto the next chapter and you have to figure it out for yourself.”

In her spare time, Zhang enjoys sleeping, singing, spending time with friends and watching BiliBili (a website like Youtube). Her goals in America are to “Be happy, enjoy life, and study hard.”