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Posted: November 27, 2012 8:20 p.m.

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Balancing two different cultures


Oxford international student Leon Fan said he had a very Americanized upbringing while living in China and learned about American traditions such as Christmas.

For college freshman Leon Fan, the American culture is nothing new to him. While he did spend the majority of his 18 years in Beijing, China, his parents sent him off to an American boarding school in high school for a brighter future.

Fan's parents felt that this was the best opportunity for him if he was going to get into a good American college in the future. They researched the best boarding schools on the Northeast coast and finally settled on one in Connecticut.

International Chinese students attending American universities have been a normality for the past few decades, but U.S. schools recently found out that the Chinese school systems were making false transcripts and helping write the college essays of the applying Chinese students. This has made American schools more reluctant to accept students straight from China. This has led to many students like Fan wanting to pursue an American high school education to overcome another obstacle.

During the three years Fan attended boarding school, he learned about American culture and realized that he felt like he belonged in America more than he did in China. Fan said that he had a very Americanized upbringing while living in China. His parents tried their best to teach Fan and his sister about American customs and traditions, such as Christmas.

"They started celebrating Christmas after I was born. My parents knew about Christmas from spending some time in America, but they didn't feel the need to celebrate it until they had kids."

Fan joins the large percentage of international students who have become the product of two cultures. Like many other students at Oxford, he has to find the right balance and juggle the American culture with his native culture.

"There is difference between the way I lived in China and how other Chinese lived in China. I never attended a traditional Chinese school. Basically, I lived in America in China, all of my surroundings in China could have been mistaken as America. My parents encouraged it, but I kind of regret not embracing more Chinese culture."

Fan, a pre-med student, has decided to embrace his Chinese culture through his studies.

"Just recently, I tried to learn Chinese medicine like herbal remedies, acupuncture and pressure points. That stuff is intense."

Although, that is about as far as he is willing to go. Fan made it clear that he is in America now, if he wanted to learn about the Chinese culture, "I would have stayed in China."

Fan did reflect on the differences between living in China and the United States. The biggest difference to him was freedom.

"They are strict. The Chinese government blocks Facebook and YouTube, but that is easy to bypass. Everyone does it. I've been doing it for four years and I am still here."

Fan noted that although there are restrictions placed on the Chinese citizens, it did not severely affect their everyday lives. If anything, according to Fan, the communist government increased nationality.

This will be Fan's fourth year studying in the U.S. His younger sister is also currently studying in the U.S. at a boarding school. While his parents do miss them, Fan said, "I don't think it's too big of a deal for them. They only miss us when we leave and then I think they sort of forget about us. They don't really think about it so it doesn't affect them much."

Sending two children off to American schools is very expensive, but luckily for Fan and his sister, their mother had been saving up money she made off of the stock market to pay for their education.

Fan said the financial support of his parents depends on his grades, so he said, "I try my best not to disappoint."

So far, Fan is enjoying his time at Oxford. While he did say he preferred the seasonal changes in the Northern states, he said the Southern hospitality was something to be admired.

When Fan is not studying for his rigorous courses, he can be found enjoying some of his favorite American things: American food, sweet tea, and the music of Taylor Swift.


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