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World Culture for Kids: From China to New York


Exploring Geography is all about raising global awareness through first-person accounts of places all around the world. For today’s post, we are visiting New York through the eyes of an exchange student from China.

exploring geography at mama smiles

AIED Council is a non-profit that connects schools in the US to schools abroad for cross-cultural understanding and exchanges. We stumbled across the Mama Smiles blog through our twitter account, @AIEDCouncil, and immediately saw a commonality in our missions. We are pleased that MaryAnne has allowed us to share one of our student’s life-changing exchanges from China to the US.

NY, I will come back

By Xiangying Guo

When the plane engine rumbled from Chicago airport, I looked down at the freedom land of America out of my window and thought something in my mind. Although it was just fifteen days that I had been in America, I have adjusted into the lifestyle here and experienced a totally different life for these days.

Group Pic

I had dreamed of this life in my dream before, when it came to the reality, I was truly impressed by friendliness, enthusiasm and harmonious self-effacing of Americans. I began to realize that it was like a global village here where different nationalities, different culture, different skin color people can be connected so closely.

 Sound View Prep

I was arranged to study in Soundview Preparatory School. It is not very large but it is full of harmonious atmosphere and beautiful scenes. There are not tall teaching buildings but small villas. On my first day to school, I was a little nervous about studying in this new school where was remote from my homeland. However, my nervousness was gone when I walked to the front of the main building stairs with heavy luggage and heard a smiling girl ask me whether I needed help.

Host Family

The girl in my host family also studied in the same school and showed me the school with her friends. She knocked on one door from another to introduce us to teachers and students who welcomed us warmly. Then we began to have classes. I had an English class and a French class on my first day because I hadn’t got my schedule yet. We studied many different poems and discussed which kinds of poems were from hands of famous poets and the reason why they were considered as good poems in the English class. While in the French class, we taught our French teacher Chinese, who was really a quick learner.

My life was back on track in the following days. I chose my favorite classes and felt that education here was so different from that in China. In class, they spent a lot of time on discussing, for example, in the history class the teacher posed a question which would be discussed with students and then listened to students’ opinions whether they were right or wrong. Teachers encouraged students to express their own opinions and sometimes thought about things again from students’ views. I couldn’t follow them at first, but the study atmosphere impressed me most.

Soundview Prep

I was very impressive by the music class in the United States. Our music classroom is a log cabin. There is an electric guitar available for students, a keyboard, a drum, a piano, a few microphones and several small percussion instruments. At music lesson, the students each holding a musical instrument, consisting of a small band, began playing different tunes. Some of them can play several kinds of musical instruments, I really admire that!

Empire State Building

On weekends, my American mother took us to many places in Manhattan. We visited a museum, and saw a Broadway show. My host family took me to the Empire State Building and I saw a very beautiful night view of Manhattan.


In fifteen days, I had made many friends there. Initially, at first I was very shy, did not speak too much. Later, I tried to make friends on different occasions. For example: we watched the basketball team together, I talked about the game with other students sitting in the stands, or in the afternoon, in the canteen we chatted, talking about a variety of topics. They are very friendly, very warm. Before I came back to China, we also agreed that one day they will come to visit China.

souvenir of Friendship

When I said goodbye to the principal, I hoped that one day I could come back to the country again. Of course, to reach this dream, I have to work hard. No pain, no gain. I hope to see the people once again and those familiar landscapes.


Thank you, Xiangying, for sharing your experience with my readers! I hope you do make it back to New York, and I hope I get to see China, someday!

Exploring Geography is a weekly series introducing families to places all around the world! You can see all the posts written for this series thus far at my World Culture for Kids page. Interested in contributing to the series? Email mamasmilesblog at gmail dot com!

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

11 thoughts on “World Culture for Kids: From China to New York”

  1. What a cool viewpoint to read it from an exchange student’s eyes. I think exchange programs are a great benefit to everyone.

  2. It is so interesting to read about New York and an American school through Xiangying’s eyes! That music class sounds incredible!

  3. Elisa | blissfulE

    I loved hearing which things Xiangying noticed as being different from what she is used to in China! I hope to visit her country someday, too!

  4. So interesting to hear her perspective of America. What an incredible opportunity, this foreign exchange program.

  5. This is so awesome, I would have loved to be a Foreign Exchange student while younger. I am planning on sending Emry to school for 5 months in Chile with some friends. All my kids have taken Spanish lessons for years but to truly be immersed in it just solidifies everything.

    My husband lived in Argentina for 2 years and speaks perfect Spanish and it has been so beneficial to him.

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