U.S. Culture Challenge: A Key to a New Environment

Yuhan Gao
Yuhan Gao

Yuhan is pursuing an MS in Finance at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and holds a bachelor degree in finance from Zhejiang University in China. Yuhan is a creative and reliable person with strong adaptability. She joined National Press Toastmaster club and loves challenging herself to live a fuller life. Yuhan is also core member of the student financial corner and hosts discussions about the business world. In her spare time, she studies geography and history, because she thinks these offer interesting lessons. By dealing with a large amount of data in her internship experiences, Yuhan improved her analytical skills and became more attentive. With the hope of looking for solutions to financial issues, she is passionate about opportunities in investment management and financial consulting.

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I can still remember the feeling when I first stepped on U.S. ground one month ago. After the initial excitement, I realized that almost everything was new to me, and I needed to learn even how to order meals. Therefore, to adapt more quickly, I grabbed my first key to the new world: the U.S. Culture Challenge program.

In my first month, I evaluated my weaknesses and chose several events to attend under two competencies recommended in the Core Competency Activity Bank.

One of the most important things in our social life is language, which has great influence on whether we can express ourselves accurately and efficiently. Holding the goal to improve spoken language, I attended an English Learning Meetup in the Georgetown Library. More than 20 persons joined in and they came from many different countries all over the world. By chatting with them, I learned something about food culture in Brazil, festivals in Norway, and the weather in Russia. The diverse culture and the same language encountered, collided and sparked.

What’s more, I also attended a Spanish Language Meetup as Spanish is the second spoken language in the United States. The host told me that there would be a teacher to teach us some basic words and sentences. To my surprise, the teacher didn’t show up that day, so the Spanish meetup became an English conversation meeting. I had really nice conversations with my new friends met in the meetup. “Open your mouth,” said my teacher. To practice a second or third language, being brave to talk to people is much more efficient than reading books at home.

As a shy person, no one but me knows how much courage it took me to take the decision to join a Toastmasters club. Toastmasters International is a place for those who want to practice public speaking skills. I attended their meeting as a guest. That night, club members held a humorous speech contest and a table topic speech contest. Speakers’ tone, body language and their face expressions all impressed me. They also gave me a chance to talk about my own idea. Although I still had difficulty understanding all the speeches, I took part in their discussion actively. Public speech is not only for presidents or team leaders. Actually, we need to do public speeches everywhere, in class presentation, in volunteer work and of course, as an employee in a company. “Every toastmaster starts from a single speech.” I will keep attending activities in the club and invited more friends to join in.

The U.S. Culture Challenge is not only a program students need to complete in Summer Intensive; it is also an activity I will do during the rest of my time in DC. As the popular saying goes, “A journey of one thousand miles begins with one step.” So, why not take the chance and start moving?

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