Culture Shock: From Shanghai to Kansas


Moving from Ningbo, China, a city with nearly 8 million residents, to Manhattan, Kan., a city of just over 50,000, was quite the adventure for Jingwen, aka Janice, Lu, senior in marketing.

Lu, who is 23 years old, first moved into Moore Hall five years ago. It took only one semester, however, before she moved into her own apartment. Lu said that many of the Chinese students prefer to live alone so that they can avoid disputes with roommates and not have to deal with being disrupted.

During her first year and a half in the U.S., Lu only took classes that strengthened her English skills. She explained that all foreign exchange students attending K-State are required to prove their English skills by passing an English language test.

After completing her English requirements, Lu started her coursework for the business administration program. Lu said she decided to come to the U.S. to earn her degree because of the restrictions in China, where after high school students are required to take a placement test.

“If you have a high score, you can attend schools similar to Stanford,” Lu said. “If you have a middle score, you can attend schools like K-State. If you score low, you can attend technical colleges.”

While she scored in the middle range, Lu said she wanted a wider variety of degree program options so she decided to attend K-State.

Lu said that there are three major differences in Manhattan compared to life in Ningbo. First, she was shocked by the difference in weather. Ningbo is usually very warm and humid. Here, she said she feels like it is always dry and either very hot or very cold. She said that during her first winter here, her skin was so dry she had to constantly apply lotion to keep her skin from cracking.

The second major difference is the food. Lu said that she likes the food in America a lot, but that it is very sweet compared to food from China. She was surprised by the amount of calories, cheese and sugar that seemed to be included in every meal and snack. After her first year in America, Lu went home to visit her family on summer vacation. Lu said that upon arrival her arrival her mother exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, are you my daughter? You must lose this weight.”

According to Lu, during her first year she gained 20 pounds. She said that she didn’t understand it. She felt like she ate significantly more in China than she did during her first year at K-State. Lu attributed her weight gain to sugary snacks and her love for the ice cream, waffles and pancakes at the Derby Dining Center.

The third difference between cultures is fashion. Lu compared Ningbo to Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, explaining that the fashion in the Shanghai province is much more current. There, it’s common to wear a suit on a daily basis. She mentioned that she loves that everyone here is much more relaxed when it comes to style on campus.

“In Ningbo, I would be thought of as a lunatic for wearing sweat pants and a messy bun in my hair to the store,” Lu said.

She also mentioned the difference in brand preferences. She prefers higher end brands and more expensive clothing, and scoffed when she mentioned her options for finding those brands in Manhattan.

Overall, Lu is the typical K-State student. She studies during the week, socializes during the weekends and shares the same struggles with group projects and multiple papers due on the same day. This is her fifth year attending K-State and she said she could not be more excited to graduate in May. Although Lu has had quite the adjustment period coming to K-State, she said she feels like it was the best decision she has ever made.

Lu said she adjusted well to Manhattan and K-State due to her outgoing personality and willingness to meet new people. However, if a student is seeking help with the transition, the International Buddies program is a possible option. The program pairs an American student, staff or community member with a foreign student.

“The buddies typically get coffee, cook meals, attend sporting events and participate in campus activities together,” Sarah Beebe, an administrative assistant in the study abroad office, said.

Beebe said that “buddies” are paired based on gender, major and language preferences. Many buddies get together to participate in the monthly events the program hosts. The next event will take place in the Union Ballroom on Nov. 1.

“The event is called Carpe Diem, there will be performers, a caricature artist, foods and prizes,” Beebe said.

Molly Brunton, senior in nutrition and program participant, said that while the International Buddies program helps foreign students, it is just as beneficial to American students.

“I love hanging out with my buddy,” Brunton said. “She is from Ecuador, we get together each week and have lunch. She doesn’t have a car so I drive her to the cafeteria. She also helps me with my Spanish homework.”

Brunton explained that Mercedes, her Ecuadorian buddy, has really opened her eyes to a whole new culture.

“She walks everywhere, she doesn’t have a car and she doesn’t live very close to campus, but she insists on walking for the exercise,” Brunton said. “Many American students would never walk that much.”