Yilei Xiao: From China to California

Yilei Xiao is an international, exchange student from Zhejiang in China. She is studying Interior Design at Sacramento State. Back home, at Nanjing Tech University she studies Landscape Design. 


Where in China are you from?

East of China… It’s called Zhejiang.

What do you miss most about China? 

My parents and my grandma. The hours are different by 15 hours. It’s kind of like they are in my tomorrow. I’m still in their yesterday. It’s more than half a day a part.

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Why did you decide to come to America for exchange?

Because I want to see different cultures and to learn English. As a transfer student, we only have transfer programs to America. There are over 50 universities I could choose in America. If I fly from China to America, California it’s the closest to my home. I also really like the weather here.

Can I talk about the weather in California. For the past 4 months, it has only rained once.

Why do you think it’s important to learn English?

I think it’s interesting to communicate with different people from different countries.

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Have you had culture shock here?

Nearly everything is different. For example, in class it’s so strange that people can leave before class is over. Back in China, teachers think it’s impolite to leave before class is done. Here, no one cares about what you do. And obviously the food here is really different.

Oh and people here have high enthusiasm to participate in parties and in sports. Everyone likes to assemble. Also, when I’m walking in the streets here I can say hi to anyone even if we don’t even know each other

What new experience do you want to have while you’re here in America?

I experienced my first sports game here in America. Back home we all know that Americans like sports and people are all really enthusiastic about sports. I just go to the games here and have different experiences because of how passionate these sports fans are.

How can you compare American students to Chinese students?

I never talk much with American students, so I don’t know much about them. During the classes that I have taken, I see nearly most of the students paying attention in lecture. Students in China are always writing their notes by hand. There is an old proverb that says ‘writing can help you memorize things.’ Here everyone writes their notes on their laptops.

There is always a misunderstanding with a lot of Chinese students. There are a lot of students who have a lot of wealth and their families will send them abroad to study and a lot of these students don’t like school. I don’t hang out with these students. I feel like their parents did not give them a proper education. But some of these students are very hard working because studying abroad is an opportunity to cherish. Money sometimes does not equal a good education.

Do you feel scared being an international student in America? 

I rarely go off campus, but when I’m on campus I feel very safe. There are so many people in China. Here sometimes when you walk on the street there are only cars passing by. This kind of situation scares me. I read the news everyday and there is so much bad news here in America of deaths and hate crimes always happening.

I don’t think about my race when I think of safety. I think  you should try your best to obey all the rules in the country you are staying in. Don’t do something that others would get mad at you for.

Are you ever going to come back to America once your exchange is done?

I’m not sure. Maybe for travelling. I want to go back to China. I miss everything about China. I grew up there. I miss my parents; my family. America is so far away from there.

What are your thoughts on the Yulin Dog Meat Festival?

We really hate it. We have a micro blog and we’ll expose the people who hurt animals. When people from different cultures mention that we all eat dogs, we feel a lot of shame about that.

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Cass Next Door

I love taking photos. I love it even more when I’m photographing my best friends. Meet Cassandra, the subject of my second photo series.

Best Friends Forever

We take the term “bff” to a whole new level. We met back in junior kindergarten. How we became friends, I’m not quite sure… We were only 5 years old at the time. What I do remember were playdates spent jamming out to Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, ABBA, Paula Abdul, and Cher (Very unusual music taste for young girls). For each birthday, our moms would buy us matching clothing. And, we would plan days where we would actually wear these matching clothes.

Seventeen years later, after attending different high schools and post-secondary schools, we are still the exact same 5-year old best friends we were when we met. Yes, that means we still like to match and listen to questionable music at times. We also love gossiping, going to concerts (OVO forever), shopping, tagging each other in memes, and TAKING PHOTOS!

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The Photos

Once we finally passed that “awkward phase” (Maybe we’re still in it, I don’t know), we started having photoshoot days. I love taking photos with Cass. Partially because she is incredible at makeup and always does mine, but also because she’s so freakin’ photogenic. Not to mention, we are completely comfortable in front of each other and always supportive of each others crazy photo ideas.

Here are some of my favourite photos I’ve taken of Cass.

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My Date with Cait

Photoshoot Date

Caitlin and I have been having “photoshoots” together since grade 8. That’s 7 years ago. They started off as cute, kind of awkward, smiling photos taken all around Toronto. We would pose in malls, by graffiti walls, and even wearing our Catholic school uniforms. As our friendship grew over the past 7 years, so did our comfort with taking photos.

I always had a passion for photography, both as the subject and the shooter. However, I never actually considered turning this hobby into a career. In the past few years, I disregarded my obvious talent for photography to focus on work and school. Caitlin has always been that one friend that has encouraged me to continue this passion. Below are sample photos I took of Caitlin from a recent shoot we did. They’re unedited, but still so fabulous. Enjoy!

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