Besse embraces multicultural identity through travel and friendship

Besse and her exchange student bond over a technologically cultural similraity: cute snapchat filters.

Submitted: Elea Besse

Besse and her exchange student bond over a technologically cultural similraity: cute snapchat filters.

Isabel Saavedra-Weis, RubicOnline Editor

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Although she has lived in the United States for most of her life with an American family, sophomore Elea Besse stills makes an effort to connect herself to her motherland, China.

I was born in China and then adopted into an American family, and I have been learning Chinese at an immersion school, Yinghua Academy, since I was 5 years old,” Besse said.

While at Yinghua Academy, Besse participated in an exchange trip to China, where she experienced complete immersion and new-found cultural differences.  

I loved it because there were so many people speaking the language used in the culture that I was born into. The language also gave me some insight as to what I had been learning in immersion school and gave me a chance to experience the reality of it as opposed to learning it in a classroom setting. Something that surprised me was that even though I looked Chinese, the native people there knew I was American. I don’t know how, but I’m guessing it was things like the way I held myself, talked, walked, and dressed that gave it away,” Besse said. 

Something that surprised me was that even though I looked Chinese, the native people there knew I was American. I don’t know how, but I’m guessing it was things like the way I held myself, talked, walked, and dressed that gave it away.”

— Elea Besse

Although Besse has cultural differences with people in China, that didn’t get in the way of bonding with her exchange student. She found that the cultural differences that previously prevented her from completely blending in in China lead to provoking conversation with her exchange student.

My exchange student and I got along really easily after the first day. We talked in Chinese most of the time because her she wasn’t fluent enough [in English] to keep up a conversation. There were some barriers when we were just chatting, such as vocabulary or other aspects of the conversation like music artists or customs of the other culture we weren’t familiar with. When we were trying to explain said customs, my exchange student often asked why we do this, and I found myself not really knowing why, which I thought was interesting,” Besse said. 

Hosting was a lot of work with all the extracurricular Besse was juggling, such as extra choir rehearsals, volleyball, and homework. Besse found herself very tired since her usual homework schedule was pushed later into the night.

We did all these great activities with the students during the time that I would normally be doing my work. So all that work usually ended up getting done at during the time that I would normally be sleeping.”

For any future hosts, she gives her advice:

“I would just say be on top of your work for that week. Also, be open minded to anything your student has to say or show because that’s how you will gain the most from your experience as a host.”

Although Besse was exhausted by her week of non-stop activities and hosting, the down sides were outnumbered by the positives.

“I thought the experience was worth it, because I made a new friend and was able to give her a good first impression of Minnesota. I think that it was just satisfying to be able to give the Chinese students the experience to live the daily life of someone half-way across the world, and with that distance comes difference in culture, views, beliefs, etc. It was also worth it because sharing with them your life gives them a totally unique perspective, because the fact that the US is very diverse means that no two people’s lives are the same.”

She has not been on a SPA exchange program to China before, but Besse sees the attraction of living in another culture in a very authentic way.

“I have done a china exchange through my other school and I thought it was amazing. However, if I do, and I hope that I will, go on the exchange with SPA next year, I hope that I’ll be able to see my exchange student and what her life is like. I also hope to be able to learn more about Chinese history and the stories that reside in any aspect of Chinese art.”

 

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