Greetings from around the world!
The following students are English language learners currently enrolled in the University of Connecticut American English Language Institute (UCAELI). For one collaborative project with the Daily Campus in their Focus on Writing course, they were posed the following prompt: “Share something that you’d like the UConn community to know about your country.” Some students decided to write about important cultural concepts, others about societal differences they’ve noticed since moving to the U.S., and even more about current events related to their countries.
Please note that we have made every effort to publish their writing in its original, unaltered form for the sake of authenticity. Although the students have revised their work, minor grammatical or lexical errors may remain. After all, learning a second language is a lifelong process! We hope you enjoy their writing and learn something new today. Questions and comments towards the whole group or to an individual piece may be directed to the course instructor at email@example.com.
Toni (Catalonia [Spain])
I was born and raised in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain). And to be honest, I am not proud of being a Spaniard. Do not misunderstand me; I love my city, I like the customs and the Spanish and Catalan culture. But while in the States the professional athletes sing the anthem all together before the games, the Spanish one is still in the shadow of the most conservative parties who, in the past, supported the dictatorship.
You have probably heard about the issue between Spain and Catalonia during the last two weeks, and how the police hit peaceful Catalan people who just wanted to vote. The world could be astonished after seeing the images while ‘our’ King and President said on television that what happened “was within the framework of the law.” This is the same government that steals millions of euros from the taxpayers and cuts health and education—those who proudly show the Spanish flag and sing the Spanish anthem in the shower.
These kinds of situations are the reasons why when people ask me where I come from, I just say Barcelona, and when I heard the concept “patriotism,” the next word that comes to my head is “old-fashioned.”
I think many people know the 12 Chinese animals of the zodiac, but do you know about the 24 solar terms in China? On Dec. 1, 2016, the 24 solar terms were officially added as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The 24 terms include: Start of Spring, Rain Water, Awakening of Insects, Spring Equinox, Clear and Bright, Grain Rain, Start of Summer, Grain Buds, Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice, Minor Heat, Major Heat, Start of Autumn, End of Heat, White Dew, Autumn Equinox, Cold Dew, Frost’s Descent, Start of Winter, Minor Snow, Major Snow, Winter Solstice, Minor Cold and Major Cold.
The ancient Chinese divided the sun’s annual circular motion into 24 segments. Our ancestors observed the sun’s annual motion, and calculated the whole year’s changes in terms of season, climate and phenology. We also use these solar terms as a traditional calendar to inform farmers in order to guide their activities. It is crucial to agricultural activities, such as when to sow seeds and when to harvest. You can find the season from the names of the solar terms. For example, even though there is no “spring” in the “Awakening of Insects,” you can probably guess the term takes place spring.
Now, people still use the system to better prepare their bodies for changes in weather. For instance, Oct. 23 is “Frost’s Descent,” meaning the weather is getting colder and colder. You will soon find frost on your windows, and you should prepare to welcome the winter.
Turkey is waiting to be discovered. The country is located between Europe and Asia, and Ankara is the capital.
Turkey sees four seasons in a year, and three sides of the country borders the ocean. Thanks to this, there are many beautiful beaches. People walk the beaches, even at midnight.
The most famous city is Istanbul, which is also the largest city with 14 of the 80 million people of Turkey residing there. The Turkish people have a culture rooted in diverse food, such as kabobs, baklava, ayran (a yogurt drink), and the world famous Turkish coffee. Turkey is a multi-cultural and multi-religious society. However, many citizens identify with the Muslim faith, which is the most popular faith in Turkey.
Coffee is to Americans as tea is to the Turks. In Turkey, tea with breakfast is obligatory, much like milk is for American cereal. Tea in Turkey is also a large part of our social traditions, much like how Americans discuss business or socialize over coffee, so do we over tea. Just like Americans, we can’t function in the morning without our cup of tea!
I think everyone knows that in China, there are kinds of traditional things such as the guzheng, erhu, shadow plays, etc. Those are famous all over the world. As for me, when I studied in junior high school, I played the clarinet, which is a Western instrument. However, at that time, I was greatly surprised that different countries’ music was so different but could also be combined. Because of this reason, many American people have begun to learn Chinese instruments and want to understand Chinese culture, but they just know about a little part of Chinese culture. Therefore, today I would like to introduce one more aspect of traditional Chinese culture—Chinese calligraphy.
Calligraphy has a long history. Chinese calligraphy is one of the ways to demonstrate the traditional arts. It’s focused not only on methods of writing but also on cultivating one’s character and hobby. Chinese calligraphy includes several main categories of style such as Xing, Cao, Zhuan, Li and Kai, and these distinct characters developed with the changing of dynasties. When writing calligraphy, you will use the Four Treasures of the Study, which are the ink brush, ink, paper and ink stone. So Chinese calligraphy has a long history, and it is also a difficult subject to study.
I have experience with the study of calligraphy. My grandfather is good at writing calligraphy and he taught me it when I was studying in elementary school. I can remember the process of studying calligraphy was so difficult for me. If you want to write good calligraphy, you need to study many areas such as the writing process and observe different writing styles. At that time, I knew that calligraphy included many fields. If you want to study Chinese culture, first you need to learn Chinese calligraphy, and you will know about a whole different world.
Mohammed (Saudi Arabia)
I am from Saudi Arabia, where the weekly schedule recently changed. The Muslim holy day is on Friday, so the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always had a Thursday-Friday weekend. But beginning this summer, my country moved to a Friday-Saturday weekend.
People in Saudi Arabia spend Friday with family. They prepare food and stay up from afternoon until night and visit relatives and friends. These days many people also get married on the weekend.