Where are you from?
I am from Beijing, China
What was your childhood like?
I have so many priceless childhood memories. I am the only child, so I was spoiled. I grew up in a neighborhood that was very famous and known for their antique stores. One of my favorite things to do after school was run in and out of every store to browse and they always gave me candy when I would stop in. Everyone was very friendly and treated each other like family which is why I enjoyed growing up their so much.
What brought you to Cleveland?
My high school in China became “sister schools” with a high school in Mentor Ohio. When they first announced this news to the whole school, I was very excited and volunteered to be the very first exchange student to study in the United States. I did not ask where I was going or when. I expressed my interest to my Chinese high school made it known how much I wanted this opportunity. Fortunately, my parents are very supportive and helped me with my decision. The next thing I knew I was on a flight to America. I did not even know I was coming to Cleveland. I thought Ohio was a city at first and that it was my final destination until the flight attendant informed me my final destination was actually Cleveland, which was a city in Ohio. After two years of studying at Lake Catholic High school, I graduated in 2013. I enjoyed my time so much and was not ready to leave which is why I decided to continue my education at Cleveland State University get my degree.
What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States? Did those change?
It was like a dream that was finally coming true. I had watched so many Hollywood movies when I was young that sparked my interest in the United States. I have always wondered what real American life was like. Now it was finally my time to explore the United States on my own. I was more excited than nervous. It still has not changed for me. It excites me every day and I am still waiting for the day that I run into Spiderman.
What challenges did you face as transitioning here?
Language was my biggest issue. I came here without knowing any English. Coming in as a junior student in high school into a private school was very challenging for me. I definitely had many culture shock moments. I dressed differently; I talked weird by not using the correct words. I had a very hard time understanding my classes and was afraid to make new friends. It was terrifying to me to stand out and be so different and to not “fit in.” I started to observe more. Soon after my first year, I started to feel more comfortable to be around people, communicate with them, and make new friends. Luckily, I met many good friends in high school that were there to help me through my tough time.
What is your occupation?
I am a senior at Cleveland State University studying at Business.
How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?
Cleveland is such a diverse city. When I tell people I am not from Cleveland, their eyes light up. Everyone has been so welcoming. They ask me about my culture, background and ask me what I have seen and done in Cleveland. They always try to create the best experiences for me while I am here. Local people always tell me what is going on around the city and suburbs during the different times of year to make sure I get to experience all of what Cleveland has to offer. The people here is another reason why I fell in love with this city. They made Cleveland my home away from home.
What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?
I love preparing traditional Chinese food at home. I did not know how to cook until I came to America. Sometimes I really miss home cooked authentic food. My family sends me their recipes so I can cook and it makes me feel close to home.
What do you love about Cleveland?
The beautiful environment. Where I came from is known to be one of the busiest cities in the world, traffic 24/7. Cleveland has their busy city side and also beautiful quiet urban area, its like the best of both worlds. I have grown to love the Cleveland Cavaliers and enjoy going to their games, it gives people a time to get together to celebrate. The city is so lively.
Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?
Differences are what making each of us unique. People come here because they love the country; they want to be a part of it. People need to keep in mind that the United States is known as the “melting pot” and they need to embrace that. By rejecting and turning away refugees, we ignore the purpose of humanity to care for those in need and to love the strangers among us as we love ourselves.
Why is it important to travel abroad?
Traveling is so important because it gives people a chance to see the differences in culture around the world. People become more open minded, more accepting. They start to think differently when they are exposed to more cultures, they begin to see the world differently. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed, which changes everything. Exposing yourself to various cultures is so vital towards personal growth.