An international student’s guide to making your transition from China to the U.S. a little easier

Ant Financial
Oct 22, 2019 · 5 min read

Candid advice from Kyle Chen, a Chinese national living and studying in Boston, U.S.: “Don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone”

Boston Commons (image from Pixabay)

For many teenagers, leaving home for the first time to go to college can be a harrowing experience. Not least if home is Shanghai and school is in Massachusetts, 12,000 kilometers or nearly halfway around the globe.

The best survival tip that he’s discovered, says Kyle Chen, a senior at Boston’s Emerson College, is to venture out of one’s comfort zone, and dive straight into embracing the American college lifestyle (while finding some comforts from home!).

“Everyone here is willing to be your friend if you put yourself out there. I think it is important for students from China and the rest of Asia to go out and meet people from different backgrounds, and be open to sharing to them about yours,” said Kyle, who first left his home in Shanghai in 2016 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marketing in the U.S.

Kyle in front of Emerson College dining hall

Being in a different country means being exposed to local cultures and people from all sorts of backgrounds, and in his three and a half years in the U.S., Kyle has taken part in unique American college experiences — whether it’s impromptu hangouts at the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) with his roommates, cheering on the Patriots at the Super Bowl, or taking up photography.

He is never without his trusty camera and professional camera light gauge to capture cool street shots.

While the broader U.S. and China relationship has been challenged amid ongoing trade tensions, Kyle has been making an effort to help his American friends better understand some of his home country’s unique culture.

Kyle and his friends, Sophomore year

Whether it is teaching newfound American roommates how to play Chinese board games such as Mahjong or taking them to the best hot pot restaurant in New England, pushing outside of his comfort zone has helped him make the transition process that much easier (and made him some local friends at the same time).

Understandably, some students can find themselves overwhelmed with the process, especially when living abroad on their own for the first time, says Kyle. But there are also some other ways that new students can deal with the culture shock.

For example, when he first arrived in Boston, Kyle discovered there were several different on- and off campus associations for students from China. Some of the groups also offered networking opportunities and social events to meet other Chinese students living in the area.

The Boston Library (image courtesy of Unsplash Images)

Kyle emphasizes that building a good social network is a great way to feel at home when living abroad.

It helped Kyle to have such a network that could offer him advice as he tried to adapt to a new country and entirely different environment during his early years in the U.S.

And he also got to know a close group of friends from his hometown that he could celebrate special occasions such as Lunar New Year or the Mooncake Festival with, or even commiserate over their mutual home-sickness.

Kyle and his friends at an impromptu gathering at a Chinese restaurant in Boston

If there is one thing that can be confusing to the newly arrived international student, it is getting used to the different payment methods and options available in the U.S. such as credit cards, popular P2P payment apps, and even checks.

But like Kyle, many students from China are well versed when it comes to using mobile payment apps and often do not rely on credit cards or cash. With more and more Chinese students travelling to the U.S., merchants are now quickly adding familiar payment options such as Alipay. Over 200,000 merchants now accept Alipay in the U.S. including Walgreen’s, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, etc.

Kyle paying at a local Boston grocery store using Alipay

“I used Alipay back home all the time, so knowing that my favorite restaurants and grocery stores in Boston’s Chinatown accept Alipay meant that I didn’t have to use my credit card all the time. The restaurants that accept Alipay are literally my favorite ones,” said Kyle.

In addition to dining in restaurant, Kyle can also shop in his favorite Asian supermarkets with Alipay. For example, he recently bought frozen dumplings and a variety of imported Asian snacks at a local Boston grocery store where he paid with the mobile phone app.

While Kyle has been happily surprised about using Alipay in U.S. merchants, his American friends have also been curious about the Alibaba ecosystem and how the Chinese payment app compares to U.S. options like Venmo or PayPal.

Alipay app screenshot of the “Discover” page located to Boston, U.S. showing digital marketing coupons at local merchants such as Neiman Marcus, Walgreen’s, Guess, etc.

With digital marketing on apps such as Alipay, it is also easy to find out what stores in the area accept a familiar mobile payment, giving Chinese students a familiar payment method that more than 900 million Chinese users call their ‘wallet’.

Alipay has been expanding its U.S. roster to better connect the Chinese consumer with U.S. merchants, including retailers such as 7-Eleven, Tory Burch, GNC, along with popular tourist attractions like the Empire State Building, Capital One Arena and Universal Studios.

Read how Alipay is growing to cater to Chinese travelers in North America:

With several partnerships in the pipeline, Alipay strives to create a strong network of like-minded retailers to support the growing number of Chinese tourists travelling abroad searching for a familiar payment method.

For more news and information about Ant Financial and Alipay, check out our official website or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Alipay and the World

A magazine about the world’s leading digital lifestyle and…

Ant Financial

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Ant Financial is a tech company dedicated to bringing inclusive financial services to the world, through Alipay and its global partners. Visit us: antfin.com

Alipay and the World

A magazine about the world’s leading digital lifestyle and payments platform Alipay and how it’s working with partners around the world to revolutionise finance for over 1 billion users

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