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From China To The U.S.: Student Juggles Two Worlds
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From China To The U.S.: Student Juggles Two Worlds


SIEGEL: Finally, this hour, we return to the Hidden World of Girls, our series produced with The Kitchen Sisters. The end of high school and the beginning of college is a momentous time for any teenager, a time of shifting identities and evolving family relationships. Well, now imagine going through all of that in a foreign country. Nineteen-year-old Mandy Lu did just that.

MANDY LU: Well, after 13 hours of arduous journey, I am finally in Beijing, and it feels kind of weird. That was me a couple of months ago, on my first trip back to China since before I started college in the U.S. It's been two years. When I saw my parents and grandmother at the airport, I felt awkward. I didn't really know what to say to them.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

LU: The first thing my mother says to me is: You're not fat. She always tells me I've gained weight when I talk to her over Skype.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

LU: Whenever I cross the border between my two worlds, for the first few days, I feel like I'm in a daze. I have to find an identity for myself in a place that's so familiar and yet not familiar at all. And I'm all on my own whenever that happens, because no one around me knows my other world or the kind of person I am in my other world. My parents are from northeastern China. They're migrant workers living in Beijing. Financially, they're not very stable. They run a traditional medicine shop doing acupuncture and massage. They work seven days a week. I look at how hard their lives are, and I feel guilty that I can't help.

It's hard for them to get a grip on what things are like for me. I don't think they know enough about America to have the capacity to understand certain things. Like how I don't eat steamed buns for breakfast at school. Or how I could disagree with my professor. Or why a dance party at college where everybody cross-dresses is fun. So we end up talking about mundane subjects like what I want to eat for lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

LU: That day was kung pao chicken. On my trip back home, I spent a lot of time sitting around with family eating or just snacking on sunflower seeds. My parents think it's important for me to connect with my relatives, but I have almost nothing to say. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm actually related to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)


LU: As they got louder and louder, I would have flashbacks to the racket my friends and I would make in the school cafeteria over, you know, someone's silly trick with a straw or the racket we'd make with test tubes and beakers in the chemistry lab. I found myself missing that. I've been back from my visit to China for two months now. I'm still debating if I should put pictures from my trip on Facebook. Here in the U.S., I've been unconsciously only putting my American self out there. Maybe I'm afraid to show my differences, or maybe I'm simply avoiding the many questions I know will come my way.


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