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A Chinese American in Europe

Elizabeth Wang
July 27, 2019

Compared to my other friends who are not Chinese, my study abroad experience has not been drastically different. I have not experienced any blatant racism or been treated as if I were inferior. Occasionally, locals will ask me what ethnicity I am and where I come from, but they are not trying to be offensive. I do imagine that growing up in the U.S. and being an English speaker helps my situation since the culture norms in Europe are not significantly different from the U.S. and most people speak at least a tiny bit of English. Sometimes, when I do feel singled out because of my ethnicity, I just try my best to not take it personally and move on with my life. 

One of the greatest things about studying abroad as a Chinese American is meeting other Chinese people from all over the world. In many of the countries I’ve visited this summer, I have met and interacted with a good number of Chinese people. Since I grew up speaking Chinese to my parents and I also take Chinese at UT Austin, carrying a conversation is not too difficult for me. While I did not grow up in China, I still feel like I have a connection with other Chinese people. It seems like no matter where I go, I can always meet someone who is Chinese. In France, I was at a grocery store with some friends I met at my hostel, and two Chinese women started talking to me in Chinese and asked me which yogurt they should buy. In Switzerland, I met a Chinese exchange student who was studying in Spain and traveling solo for the weekend. 

Since I’ve been in Italy for the most amount of time, I was able to meet the most Chinese people here. Some people were restaurant owners who had lived in Italy for over 25 years and others were tourists who were traveling around Europe for a few weeks. One of the most memorable encounters was when I took a rooftop yoga class in Florence with my roommates. Out of the 14 or so people that participated in the activity, about half were Chinese (including myself). Nobody had known each other before the yoga class but we were all able to get to know each other because we all knew how to speak Chinese. A few were from China, one was from Norway, and another had been an international student at UT Austin, which is the school I go to! The yoga class and the dinner we had together afterwards really allowed us to talk and share stories. By the end, we were all friends on WeChat (the social media Chinese people like to use) and knew so much more about each other. 

I seriously thought it was so cool that I was able to meet so many other Chinese people, and it’s something I never would have expected from a study abroad trip in Europe. I could never have imagined myself speaking Chinese to a stranger in any other country besides China. Being able to converse in Chinese has allowed me to create memories with people I wouldn’t have gotten to known as well otherwise. This definitely was not something I was expecting but I am beyond grateful that it happened.

Elizabeth Wang

<p>Currently I am an International Relations and Global Studies major at The University of Texas at Austin. In my free time I enjoy exploring Austin with my corgi or curling up in bed with a good book. I am a very active person and I like to take advantage of school breaks to travel and explore the unknown. In the past year, I have been to Mexico, Thailand, Canada, and Turks and Caicos. When I graduate, my dream is to find a job which will allow me to travel and explore the world.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2019 Summer 1, 2019 Summer 2
Home university:
University of Texas - Austin
Hometown:
Katy, TX
Major:
International Relations
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