My Experiences with Yuxi: A Friend from Across the Globe

Last year, I traveled to Shanghai, China, for the Fudan Exchange Program, and there I was welcomed with open arms by the most amazing host family. My host sister, Yang Yuxi, and I were two peas in a pod. When I found out she would be coming to Choate via the exchange program, I was so excited to show her my school and introduce her to my friends. For the past couple of weeks, Yuxi has been eating breakfast with me and shadowing my classes each day. She even slept over in my dorm for one night. She joins me for lunch, my after-school activity, and often dinner as well.

It’s been so interesting to hear her remarks on how America is different from China, and even how Choate is different from her own school. In Yuxi’s school in China, all girls have to wear their hair up in a ponytail as a sign of respect. If she were to wear her hair down, it would be viewed as quite progressive. Both boys and girls also have a set uniform they have to wear everyday, never getting the opportunity to dress down. You could imagine how Yuxi felt when she attended classes with me the first day and saw girls wearing their hair down with no accompanying uniform. She was quite surprised to find such diversity among the student body here at Choate and how relaxed Choate is.

When crossing the four-way intersection between classes, she found it unusual that cars stopped for pedestrians. In Shanghai, cars have the right of way, not people. At the crosswalk, Yuxi started to run, aiming to make it across before the oncoming cars drove through.

Yuxi’s weekends usually consist of numerous weekend classes and hours of homework, leaving no time to socialize. She told me she only hangs out with friends at school and occasionally over a break, but those breaks are typically filled with hours of homework.

At night, I asked her about the last time she had a sleepover. She thought long and hard — her eventual guess was sometime in elementary school, which pales in comparison to my monthly overnights. On my breaks, I have little to no homework. I hang out with friends and get to watch TV every weekend. “Sarah, I envy your life,” she said.

Yuxi has been teaching me about different traditions from her culture. She gave me a gold coin to put under my pillow for good luck during the Chinese New Year. She has been sharing some of her favorite snacks, including delicious White Rabbit candy.

And yet, in spite of all this difference, Yuxi and her fellow exchange students remain very similar to us Choate students. They joke around, they have friend groups, they gossip,  they have their likes and dislikes — in short, they’re teenagers. Yuxi and I regularly write letters to each other. Though I’m grateful to be able to practice my Chinese, I’m more thankful for finding what I sense will be a lifelong friend.

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