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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Lost in Translation: Meet Dongchen Hou from China

    Maria Tanabe
    Maria Tanabe/ The Daily Wildcat Phd student in East Asian Studies, Dongchen Hou is being interviewed on Oct. 5, 2014 in the Student Union.

    The purpose of this column is to gain a perspective of the UA community from the eyes of one its many foreign exchange students. Dongchen Hou comes to Arizona from the northern region of China to earn her Ph.D. in East Asian Studies. Hou is up for trying new American customs, but don’t ask her for a game of Scrabble, as she admits she’s not very good at board games. An admirer of the desert landscape, Hou considers squirrels to be exotic creatures. She shares with the Daily Wildcat some of her impressions of the Old Pueblo.

    Daily Wildcat: What were some culture shocks when you first arrived here?Hou: You don’t need to be so formal with professors. You have more freedom to express yourself. There are a lot of people from other countries, so you get used to hearing different accents. And everything is big! American people like things big. Also, I think Americans express emotions and feelings more directly, but Chinese people [tend] to hide or express [emotions and feelings] in a subtle way.

    Was it difficult to learn English?I’m taking a class for language and culture where we were told to write down the types of English you think is important but not taught in class. I wrote down how I’m not being taught how to write academic papers, but I still have to learn to write it. Second, the kind of daily, everyday English [is not taught], so it’s kind of difficult for me to understand some slang.

    How are you liking Arizona?I didn’t like it at the beginning, but, right now, I like it. The natural scenery is pretty, and I really love to [hike] with friends. It’s quite different from the rest of America. It’s kind [of] a desert view, which is quite unique.

    How would you compare the academic environment to China[‘s academic environment]?I noticed other American students who were participating in a discussion, and so many people raise their hands. But in China, the teacher is more centered. The teacher is dominant in class, and the students are kind of passive, and you get used to not asking questions.

    What are some presumptions Americans make when they hear you’re Chinese?That my math is good, which is not true for me because I study humanities.

    What are some cultural things in America you’ve had some trouble with?A lot of the references to movies I have a hard time understanding, like “Star Trek.” I have never tried video games. Card games and board games are very difficult for me. And [with] the names of alcohol when ordering at a bar, I need help sometimes.   

    What are some new things you’ve done since being here?I used to not be athletic at all. Since coming here, I go to the [Student Recreation Center] about five times a week just to be in shape and healthy.


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