Beijing American Center holds ‘Meet a US Student’ event

Jesse S. Curtis (孔世杰), the director of Beijing American Center, Cultural Affair Officer    Photo: by Rebecca Lin 

The Beijing American Center (北京美国中心), hosted the “Meet a US Student” activity, one of its most popular events that is usually held every two weeks, on July 12. The event brought together over one hundred Chinese and American attendees, chatting casually with each other over coffee.  

“Want to ask questions about the U.S.? Or just practice your English? These informal chats over coffee with US students in Beijing are the perfect opportunity,” read the promotional material from the Beijing American Center posted on, Beijing’ most frequented website for checking out activities and events in the city. 

The Beijing American Center is known as a good place to go if you want to learn more about American culture through people-to-people exchange. “Our main goal here is to ‘explain’ the US - to help Chinese get a better understanding of what is America, what is America like, and what are the values that we have in the US,” Jesse S. Curtis, the director of Beijing American Center and Cultural Affairs Officer, told 

Photo: by Rebecca Lin 

About the “Meet a US Student” program, Curtis said, “It is designed to give our Chinese friends an opportunity to come into the Beijing American Center and talk with common American students, teachers or those who are here living in China, to exchange information about what’s it like to live in the US, what’s the US culture like, and also what’s it like for an American to be here studying and working in China.” 

“A very good opportunity for people-to-people direct exchange,” Curtis noted. 
According to the diplomat who is now in charge of all aspects of the operation of the Center, “Meet a US Student” is a very popular program. “When we started it in the spring, we weren’t sure how it was going to go, but it has been very-very popular. Every time we do it, lots of people would come and everyone enjoys very much participating in the program,” he said. 
Chinese young people definitely constitute the biggest part of participants considering most of them regard America as a good destination for studying abroad, and so they are anxious not only to know more about America but also improve their language skills. 
The real success of the program is that quite a lot of American volunteers join the meeting to talk about their own country and culture or just help the Chinese people with their English. “When we first started doing it, we looked for American students because we felt they would have the most amount of time to come and do something like this. But very quickly, we were contacted by other Americans who are living here in China who asked if they could also participate,” Curtis said, “So, we have all kinds of Americans who would come in and they like the opportunity to talk about the US—explain America to the Chinese who join the event.” 

From R to L, Nancy Fong, Eric Arrieta and Ryan Huffman. Photo: by Rebecca Lin 

Nancy Fong, Ryan Huffman and Eric Arrieta respectively come from the San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles branches of the University of California (加州大学). Now they are attending one year Chinese language program at the Beijing Normal University (北京师范大学). They learnt about the “Meet a US Student” activity from a friend and they decided to be volunteers to learn more about China and help their Chinese friends know more about America. 

And they found a special way to do the exchange. The three took turns to exhibit nature and activity photos saved in their cell phones that give Chinese people sitting together with them a more concrete idea of American life and environment. 
And they also discussed about culture shocks and differences. 
“Have you experienced any embarrassing or unhappy moments when communicating with local people?”, asked 
“I don’t think so. Although we just arrived, we could hardly communicate with local people in Chinese and I find that sometimes embarrassing. But it’s not their fault, it’s ours,” said Huffman. 
Arrieta felt that the Chinese tend to be direct in commenting on things, but Americans are more subtle most of the time. He ascribed the variation to cultural difference.  
“Are you an ABC (American Born Chinese)?” the reporter asked Fong, who has a face with purely oriental features. 
“No. I’m American,” she seemed confused and asked what does ABC means. The other two also had no idea about the phrase. 
After some explanation, the three understood and said they don’t use the expression any more. 
“Is that because it’s kind of offensive?” asked 
“No. We just don’t say it,” said Fong, “Then, I’m an ABC.” 
“Do you think American youth these days are also burdened by social problems, for example surging house prices, or finding a job, like their Chinese peers?” asked   
“The global economy does not look quite good, so I think it’s a general problem we all face,” answered Huffman. 
“When we are attending college, we would not think about that a lot. But when we graduate, I think, there would be all kinds of concerns,” said Arrieta. 
“In the US, we are encouraged to participate in various kinds of events, organizations, and activities. So, I think we are intended to be well-rounded—and then to lead our own lives. So, to be more specific, we’re distracted to some extent. And so we would not focus too much on the pressures,” said Fong. 
“You are all learning Chinese language, so would you plan to build a life here in China in the future?” asked 
“I’m still not sure about my future. I learn Chinese because it’s quite a challenge for me and I like challenges,” said Fong. 
“I would stay if I could apply for a program or find a job here,” answered Huffman, who is trying to find an internship in Beijing to enrich his experience. 
“I’m also not decided about my future yet. I learn Chinese because the most people in the world speak Chinese, not only in China but in quite a lot of other countries,” said Arrieta. 

American and Chinese students who shared the same table took a photo together for a memory. Photo: by Rebecca Lin 

Harvey Dzodin, a columnist for newspapers, magazines and websites also made there for communicating with Chinese people. Photo: by Rebecca Lin 

Explore Hunan Promote Hunan
Related Stories
Share this page
Touched Sympathetic Bored Angry Amused Sad Happy No comment
About us

Rhythm Media Group is a multi-media company, operating a US-based Chinese daily newspaper, The China Press, and the paper's website - (which has mobile-app version), as well as a Beijing-based English website The group boasts 15 branch offices across the US, and a number of cultural centers focusing on culture-related business in the North America, Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Launched in September 2012, the is designed to serve as a bridge between China and the US, and to keep its readership inside or outside China better informed by providing news and insights on China's current affairs, culture, life, business, people and sports.

Our Partners

About us - Contact us - Copyright - Terms of use - Privacy policy

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved