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Frost Wang overcomes fears, new culture as Chinese AmeriStudent

Chinese citizen and freshman AmeriStudent international student An (Frost) Wang is a first-year, first semester Feather reporter. He currently does not have a Feather profile.

“Everything is possible in the world, so you should always put hope in your future,” one of my best friends said to me.

An (Frost) Wang

During their seventh grade soccer game, freshman An (Frost) Wang, middle center, and his classmates celebrate after finishing fourth out of 16 teams in the Baogang No. 3 middle school, March 2016.

Three years ago, I never thought my English skills would improve to this point; they are not perfect, but much, much better than I thought I’d achieve. I have been learning English since second grade in Chinese primary school in Baotou, China; I started seven years ago, almost half my age.

For a lot of Chinese students, learning English has always been one of their most difficult subjects. I know that, as I was in that situation a few years ago. The way we learn English is much different from the way Americans become educated: our way is not really ideal.

In China, both teacher and student just follow the Chinese/English textbook during class; we recite words and the teacher tests us. This is the extent of our English preparation.

There will be some dialogue scenes in the textbook, but mostly no one would really understand them in-depth. We learn English only at the surface and we also use the language at the surface level.

When I was in the seventh grade, the first grade of middle school, something changed in my life. Both my parents and I decided that I would study abroad in US, far from home.

At that time, I didn’t really understand what that meant. I didn’t even have a concept about the US and study abroad; literally nothing. I started to learn English, attend expensive English courses and joined Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) classes and tests.

During my primary and junior high study, I can still remember that when I was in the midst of study, even I didn’t know if I could really go to America for high school. It has been a long, tough time to learn English, trying to fit in both socially and academically to a culture I’d never heard about before.

An (Frost) Wang

After graduating from middle school, An (Frost) Wang, third from right, celebrates with his classmates at the end of year party, July 2019.

My parents did a good job to help me attend a lot of English learning courses. As far as I can remember, the English course I attended was the beginning of my TOEFL English learning. There were tons of TOEFL practice questions and heavy vocabulary books.

While this study was tiring and often made me feel hopeless, especially during the annoying audio recordings, I know this was good for me and good training in English, so I didn’t give up. I kept learning, kept listening to the audio recording even though I didn’t like it; I kept believing that all of my efforts will pay off one day in the future.

The thing is, as long as I kept learning those things, the annoying feeling reduced as time passed. There was a kind of “normal feeling” instead. Today, I’m much more active in learning English and believe that I am, and will be, much better.

I am participating and feeling confident using English in daily life. A year ago, I felt “nothing”; just kept reciting vocabulary words, learning grammar knowledge and practicing TOEFL questions. Yet as I kept talking, listening to English audio recordings and practicing to improve my speaking and listening skills, I became comfortable in my new culture. 

Despite personal fears of not feeling comfortable with the new environment, not being able to make new friends or doing or saying things just right all the time, I am convinced that studying and living in the United States is the best way to practice and learn English.

An (Frost) Wang

While dining at a restaurant in Baotou, China, An (Frost) Wang, center, spoke with his parents, father Zhanhe Wang, left, and mother Min Zhang, about studying abroad after the eighth grade semester examination, July 2018.

I don’t know what the daily routine of Chinese students involved in English learning looks like, but I think I can say that I am glad I am going through this process.

When I left China, I thought my English skills were bad and I didn’t know which English level I was at. So I came to America with a lot of concerns, but the good thing is, most of those concerns were gone after I came to America.

For most Chinese students, the hard thing is always the food and some things related to the culture. In all honesty, something like that doesn’t matter a lot to me. I can stay far away from my hometown and my family for months and barely miss home. Western foods and dishes are familiar to me, and today, I am totally okay with fitting in the American culture.

In another case, fitting into another culture doesn’t mean you have to give up your old culture, right?

One funny thing is, I am writing my internet fan fiction story and this article about myself at the same time. Writing is one of my favorite things to do when I have my own free time. I am currently working on two fan fiction stories, 350,000 words total (in Chinese), and they are still updating.

I am always proud of my work. From a certain point, it is very different from other internet fan fictions. A lot of internet fan fiction writers write their stories only for money; they follow the market, they write what is popular currently and what most of the reader wants, not what they themselves want.  

They will just give up if one of their books doesn’t have a good ”grade” and then start to write a new one. There might be more than 50 percent of cyber fan fiction writers who had this kind of experience, and not just in fan fiction. It is the same for every internet fiction writer actually, so it makes me feel good to keep my story updating.

There was once a time that I told my parents that I was learning TOEFL questions, but actually I was writing my fiction. I kept doing it for almost one month until the teacher told them I was not studying. They finally found out about this small secret and even today we can still mention it to make a joke.

Keep calm, stay “frost”y and be yourself. This unfinished journey in America is continuing through AmeriStudent via Baili Top in Beijing, China. Things experienced in this journey which has taken 5 months matter even more than things I can experience in China for a whole year. This journey will be one of the most important periods in my life.

The following slideshow includes images from An Wang’s English learning journey.

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