My Time in America - Lufei Tang

Every so often, we have the opportunity to work with bright young students from Chinese universities. We strive to create a professional and enriching environment for every student that works with us. 

Recently, we had the opportunity to work with Lufei Tang, a student from Xi'an Jiaotong University.

Below you can read about her time in America.

My Experience with America and EveryLibrary

As a college student in China, I was granted the opportunity to come to America and work as an intern at EveryLibrary this winter vacation in the hopes of gaining some work experience and learning more about American culture. But actually, what I learned was so much more than I expected.

Work

I would say that my internship at EveryLibrary has been full of surprises. I still remember that I was late for work for the first day because I was unfamiliar with the subway system. I felt so sad about it. But all my worries were gone when I met my supervisor Michael. He did not blame me at all, instead, he said it’s quite understandable and even showed me how to take the subway in the map. 

I worked in a stress-free environment for the next six weeks. I felt that I was really lucky to work with a company that cares so deeply about their interns. In the beginning, they asked me what I was most interested in. Not only did they want me to learn something from my work and grow professionally, but also to make sure that I would feel comfortable about my work. 

As an data intern, in the first two weeks, my task was to get myself familiar with a number of big data sources and several projects so that I could have a deeper understanding of what EveryLibrary does. EveryLibrary is America's first and only nonprofit dedicated to fighting for libraries at the ballot box. I dealt with data about voter information, sorted them into different categories and made them easy and accurate to do some data analysis. Then I made charts and graphs to identify the trends of them and found out who would be the best voters for libraries.

Next, Michael and I collected a larger amount of data at the Foundation Center. It was a lot more so it would be a much more challenging project. There were 28,000 organizations included in the data set. My duty was to dos some classifications and calculations about it. During this process, I gained some hands-on experience. What’s more important was that I learned how to deal with problems by myself. When I was dealing with the data, I felt like there was definitely a better way to do it. So I searched Google and learned some useful functions which helped me work more efficiently. I’m sure the skills I learned would also be helpful for my future career.

The next stage of the project was to contact people directly. One necessary skill required was writing emails. In the last two weeks of the internship I learned valuable email writing skills. 

When I look back, I was surprised to learn how much effort is put into a project for the preparatory stage and how much care and patience working with data demands. It’s a whole process from which I felt a real sense of achievement and satisfaction.

After work, I really enjoyed talking with Michael. We talked a lot about the difference of lifestyle, culture, history and many other things between America and China and it was so fun! I’m really grateful to Michael for being so kind to me. He not only encouraged me a lot in my work, but also helped me a lot in adapting to new life here, which I would always appreciate.

Learning Another Language

Going abroad gave me the opportunity to be in an immersive environment and learn real American English. In China, we focused too much on just learning grammar, but not how to use the language in a practical way. I thought my English was good because I always got good grades on the exams when I was in school. But when I came to America, I realized that I still had a long way to go. 

The most interesting thing was ordering food. Reading the menu was the hardest part for me because I never learned that in school. There were many kinds of food that I had never heard about, which really confused me. Usually I just randomly chose one, and found it totally different from what I expected. However, learning to order food was really a good way to force myself to adapt to things that were unfamiliar and unusual to me. Sometimes I went to a coffee shop not because I wanted some coffee, but because I wanted to learn how others customize their order.

At first, I felt nervous when people talked to me because they spoke too fast. Sometimes they had to repeat what they said that so that I could understand them, and that was a little embarrassing. I also had to think twice before I spoke to others because I was afraid I would make some mistakes. Later I realized that the best way to prevent making mistakes was to make mistakes. People never laughed at me when I had trouble expressing myself, instead, they always listened to me with utmost patience, which encouraged me a lot. Thanks to all of you who had given me a helping hand, I have become much more confident at speaking English and I was so happy to feel that my English improved a lot!

Life in NYC

Living in New York was a whole different experience for me. Through interacting within a foreign society, my eyes opened to aspects of life that would be difficult to learn in my native country.

People were really kind and friendly. They always smiled at you when they saw you even if they didn’t know you. They loved saying “Have a nice day!”, which really made me keep in a good mood for the whole day. I treated others in the way I was treated in the hopes that my smile or some simple words could make a difference in others’ lives as they had in mine.

It was a wonderful and enriching experience which allowed me to try things that I wouldn’t be able to at home. I visited the Statue of Liberty which I’ve only seen on TV and have always dreamed of seeing for myself. I went to the Empire State Building and enjoyed the wonderful night scene in New York. I saw a Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center and enjoyed being immersed in the lively and exciting atmosphere, which was a much better experience than watching it on TV. I am also an aficionado of musicals and art museums so I visited many museums and saw some great Broadway shows.

When I think of New York, many things come to my mind. I remember how surprised I was when I first saw the old subway system there. I remember people telling me how unsafe New York was at night and how scared I felt while walking back home alone after the Broadway show. I remember my hair was blowing madly by the strong and cold wind and I nearly couldn’t hold my phone when I was on the ferry to Ellis Island. I remember I would always stop and enjoy the performances in the subway station. Several times I took the wrong subway and nearly got lost. 

I made so many memories in this city, and I will miss it a lot when I go back. 

Having been here for a month, I feel like I was not only a visitor, but also a part of it. The city and its people made me feel welcome, and I really hope to be able to come back again in the future.


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