By Gabriel Weinstein
Thursday, July 24, 2014 5:07 AM MDT
ANGEL FIRE— Two weeks into their summer in New Mexico, the eight Chinese exchange students working at Angel Fire Resort have quickly learned that there are some things an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” or “The Big Bang Theory” cannot teach about the United States.
“The people we are getting along with every day are the real Americans,” said Gavin Hu, a 19-year-old Wuhan University student. “We got to put away some stereotypes that we used to have.”
Interacting with guests and American coworkers has taught Cynthia Song how to work as part of a multicultural team.
“It’s opened my eyes,” said Song, a 19-year-old accounting student from Szechuan Province.
The students arrived from all over China a few weeks ago to work in the resort’s housekeeping department. The resort worked with Spirit Cultural Exchange to recruit and hire the students. The students are in the United States on a J-1 Visa , which allows foreigners to come to the United States to work and study on a temporary basis.
This is the first time abroad for many of the students. Living alone, far away from their homes has taken getting used to but it is an experience the students know will ultimately benefit them. Working at the resort is an opportunity for Wendy Li to combine her love of traveling and gain broad work experience.
“It’s made me more independent,” Li said.
Cecily Green said this intensive language experience will help with her career in the business world.
“English is a popular language in the world,” the 20-year-old international business student said. “I think it might help my life.”
In addition to working at the resort the students take English lessons once a week with a local English as a Second Language instructor. In the class the students go over English pronunciations, idioms and other language fundamentals.
Living in New Mexico has exposed the students to a new side of American culture. They’ve picked up a few words of Spanish from some coworkers and have developed an appreciation for New Mexico green chiles and a good meal at Zeb’s Restaurant & Bar. Spotting elk, deer, horses and rabbits has become a pastime for the group, which do not get many chances to see that type of wildlife in China. Before the group heads back to China in September they hope to visit Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and a sneak in a trip on the resort’s zipline.
Though they are only two weeks into their American experience, the group knows that this will be a pivotal experience in their lives. It has provided them with a real look at American culture and a chance to interact with Americans that Hollywood often forgets. The next time the group flicks on an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” in China they’ll know that they have met the real Americans.