My experience in America as an exchange student

Jen Tran

Coming to the United States as an exchange student, I had a unique opportunity to live and exchange my culture with Americans over the course of a year. To become a part of my host family and school community in a foreign country, I knew that establishing good relationships here is very important. There were a few things I did that helped me accomplish this goal and I would like to share my experience with other international students.

1. Bring some gifts from your home country

Before my flight to America, I went to Hanoi Old Quarter to look for some gifts such as Vietnamese keychains, bamboo dragonflies (a Vietnamese handmade toy that can balance on anything!), Vietnamese silky scarves and ties (for my American family and teachers), Vietnamese coffee and “ô mai”,… Everyone did not expect Vietnamese gifts from me and they were all fascinated. The more unique your gifts are, the more Americans are impressed and curious about you. This is a way I brought my culture to America and at the same time, showed my willingness to make friends here. Some of the gifts I gave to my American teachers and band members at the end of the school year to show my gratitude for their help and support.

2. Involve in as many activities as you can

I have mentioned this in one of my previous posts. Americans like people who make contribution to the society. Volunteering to do housework, joining in some clubs or volunteering in community service activities gained me a lot of friends as well as knowledge of American culture. It is fun to do and good to do. Americans are always impressed by enthusiastic and active people.

3. Cooking

Food and cooking cuisines are the best representation of a culture. Hence, I tried to gather as many Vietnamese vegetables and fruits in Asian market as I could to create some traditional Vietnamese dishes (Below is the picture of me making the traditional Vietnamese Spring Roll!) I also brought some ingredients from my home country to give the dishes the most authentic flavor. My host family really enjoyed my cooking and they were glad that I was making effort to share my culture with them through Vietnamese cuisines. Food makes the best connection! Even if you are not good at cooking and you don’t live with an American family, you can still try cooking for your American friends and introduced them to some other food products from your home country that you can find in international markets. Remember, it is the effort that counts!

4. Talk about the culture differences

There are tons of differences between America and my home country in education system, history perspective, lifestyles, customs, laws,… Most Americans did not know much about my home country at the present time as they still thought of Vietnam as a poor and war country so what I share about my country really surprised them. What I learned about Americans’ perspective of the Vietnam War flabbergasted me and changed the way I think of it. There are good and bad things but sharing the differences and asking questions gained me more knowledge and new perspective.

There are certainly more ways to impress and exchange your culture with Americans and these are just some from my own experience. Show your uniqueness and accept the differences will help you get the most out of your staying in America.

Jen Tran – Social Media Assistant

Learn more about Greenhandshake.