How important do people see the various aspects of society? What does the world look like? It’s hard to answer these questions until you actually figure it out by yourself. However, from my personal experience, I believe that what you have seen on media or internet is not actually true. If you really want to find truth, you have to experience it by yourself. Since I have traveled to more and more places, I started to realize that in order to become farsighted and aspirational people, we should open our mind through traveling, communication with different people and also learning and embracing different cultures. Finally we will find out what the real world looks like.
When I was in China, I always imagined what the world looked like outside of the country. I liked to watch Hollywood movies so I watched them all the time when I was younger. In some Hollywood movies people in America are vivid and active, the cities in America always have skyscrapers, ablaze with light, and people are always carrying a gun when they walk on the street. Also some news from internet and media in China always said that American shooting accidents happen on the streets, or on the campus. That made me think that America is a dangerous country, and I should always be aware of guns if I were in America. Some media always shows the news that American citizens always marched to the streets and demonstrated for some reasons. Those made me have negative stereotypes about American government. In internet I could always see many Americans having bias against people who come from different countries. So in general the impression of the United States in my mind was love and hate, black and white. I didn’t even know the truth, so I decided to figure it out by myself.
Under my parents support I came to the United States to study and exchange cultures. The first place I have went to was California. Before I came here I heard that Los Angeles had the most gangsters in the world, which makes me very scared, but since I arrived there things were different than what I expected. I lived in the University of California Riverside, and I was there studying English for 2 weeks with other exchange students. At that time my English was not good, and people could barely understand what I spoke. We had a subject to interview with college students in UCR, asking and interviewing them how they feel about college life and taking pictures with them. They were very patient and kind to answer to me, which started to convinced me that the Chinese media might have given me the wrong impression.
After I finished the two weeks of English training, I went to Washington State. I lived in the border between the United States and Canada. It is very nice little town, but it really subverts the skyscraper impression I had of America. Because of Chinese Media and Hollywood movies, I expected to see tall buildings everywhere. Even in Los Angeles I didn’t even see that many skyscrapers. The buildings I had seen most were short and flat houses. Also the traffic is not very convenient for people who don’t know how to drive like me, because in China we have a lot more public transportation in almost everywhere. For example, we have high-speed rail between urban and country, and we also have magnetic levitation in the city. In Washington if I wanted to go somewhere I had to ride a car, because this is the most effective way to go somewhere. Some American friends always asked me, “Do you guys have cars in China?” or “What kind of transportation do you guys use except bike?” I think the reason why they asked me this is because they don’t really know about China. Every single time they ask me those kinds of questions I always answered them patiently that there are lots of ways of transportations in China. In China there is too much traffic, so we use more public transportation like bus, train and subway unlike in America where mostly cars are used. After I explained over they were like getting to know China again. I am very proud that I explained something that they didn’t know and at the same time I realized that we need more communication and study that could open up our outlook.
My last American high school experience was in a public high school in Washington State. I was one of the exchange students that became the first group of international students in that school. It was kind of awkward being the first group but the whole school treated me like their family. I really got a warm welcome by them. In the first day of the school, many students introduced the high school system hand by hand for me. Some students brought me to my locker and the other students brought me to see each teacher in my schedule. Also I made lots of good friends over there. They helped me to learn American culture. For example they brought me to experience their party. They asked me about Chinese culture, because they never heard it except for what they heard from media.
The teachers were very patient and kind. In the class, teachers always gave all exchange students more opportunities to talk in class. They thought that would help to prove our English level. Also teachers were always being patient to explain things when I asked them the questions with bad English speaking, especially my guidance counselor Mr. G. He always helped me when I had language barrier with others. Also he helped me to apply to the next high school which is STA and he encouraged me when I felt upset. One day, my English teacher misunderstood that my project was kind of similar to the other students in different class. My English teacher was frustrated with me and he gave me an F on that project. It was a big percentage of the grade. I didn’t want to fail my English grade, so I asked Mr. G for help. He was very patient to listening and trying to understand what I explained. Finally he proved that I was innocent, convincing my English teacher to trust me and change my grade back to B. This pleased me and at the same time it convinced my impression of American people. I started to realize most of American people don’t have bias against people who come from different countries. Oppositely most of Americans are kind and understanding. That is why people called America “the cultural melting pot.” I am not completely against the Internet saying that the United States have discrimination, but I bet most of the Americans I met don’t have discrimination. So what I have seen does not look like what I have heard from China’s media or internet, which totally refreshed my world views. That also stimulated me to travel to more places to experience more, or in other words, to know more.
After that I traveled almost all the west coast of America and southwest part of Canada with my last host family. After I transferred to the east I visited almost all of the northeast part of the US. I could see more and more of the contours of the world. I started to realize that whatever Chinese or American media and internet says are not absolutely right. The reason why they tell us that is because they want to convince our thinking for any political reason or commercial reason. Whether Americans think how poor China is or Chinese think how great America is, those are the stereotypes and cultural barrier. China is not the country without cars and America is not the country that people always carry guns to go shopping. So the truth is from what you have seen which your brain processes.
What does the world look like? You have to experience it by yourself.