Yuji Zhong: A Year To Remember

Eryn McQueen, Reporter

Yuji Zhong (11) is a foreign exchange student from Beijing, China. Zhong arrived in Colorado on August 24, 2016, which was a bit hectic since school started just two days later. She lives with her host family, Yvonne and Matt Carpenter, along with their daughter Kyla Carpenter (9), who also attends MSHS.

When Zhong’s parents saw the opportunity for her to go to school in America, they knew it would be great experience. When Zhong was young, her parents always had the dream to come to America. Under the influence of her parents dream, Zhong picked up English. Mandarin is Zhong’s first language, followed by English. She is enrolled in a Spanish I course this year, and hopes to become fluent eventually. In the distant future, she hopes to become fluent in German as well.

Including this year, Zhong has been to the United States three times. The two times prior, she was on vacation with her family. This is her first year participating in international schooling. After she completes her courses this year, she’s hoping to come back to America and graduate from high school. Zhong is also planning to come back to the states for college. Although she hasn’t thought much about her major, she wants to complete at least four years of college.

According to Zhong, school is the biggest change so far. The basic core classes she was previously enrolled in included Mathematics, Chinese, English, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Common Extracurriculars in Beijing are similar to those in America. Third language courses consist of Spanish, German and Korean. Art and music are also popular choices, as well as computer science.

Although school is the biggest change for Zhong this year, she’s also found it difficult adjusting to the American lifestyle. Zhong’s typical daily diet consisted of stir fry with veggies, soy sauce, and rice or noodles with soup when she was in China. As of now, Zhong enjoys most American food, especially when its cheese flavored. She hasn’t come across a dish she dislikes. It’s not very common to have dishes as sweet as those in America in China. Zhong prefers her food on the bitter side and she finds a good portion of American food to be too sweet.

The difference in population from Beijing to Manitou Springs is huge difference in Zhong’s perspective. Manitou is much less crowded than she is used to. Since there are so many people in Beijing, subways and buses are the most efficient way to travel, whereas cars are much more present in America.

China has a pollution problem, but according to Zhong, it’s not as bad as the media has made it out to be. During the winters, the pollution is at its worst in China. That’s typically the season when citizens wear masks to filter the air while breathing outdoors. Winter is also red alert season. A red alert is a notification issued to citizens within the area, warning them that the pollution levels are too high, and they should remain indoors. The red alerts are common for the duration of winter. Last year, Zhong and her classmates missed an entire week of school due to a red alert. While Beijing is used to foggy, overcast weather during the winters, it rarely snows. Zhong is excited to witness a winter storm in the next few months, as she loves the snow.

Although Zhong has only been here for a couple months, she has yet to become homesick. According to Zhong, adjusting to Manitou Springs’ environment and school is enough to worry about, as she has had little time to think about China. Although she’s not homesick, she’ll be happy to return to Beijing after the school year. However, while she’s in America, she hopes to improve her English speaking and her accent.