Spending Chinese New Year with the Biggest Family by Qiwei Yang

Qiwei from China is a new visiting student for the Spring 2013 semester. I met her at the Chinese Students & Scholars New Year Banquet 2013 and wondered how she’d feel to be away home during the important celebration time. She shared her story like below:

CSSA's New Year Banquet 2013 ©Hanfeng Zhang

After staying in Fayetteville and studying at the University of Arkansas (U of A)  for a month, I have overcome tiring jet-lag and some culture shocks. I started to be able to enjoy cold drinks and fresh vegetables, which we do not drink or eat normally in China. I have gradually learned how to say “excuse me” and “thank you” at right moments. I also started to know more about how people think here and how to make friends with them. It seemed everything was going well, except the fact that I was going to spend the Chinese New Year outside of my country. I was feeling so sad that I would miss this wonderful time of the year, the Chinese New Year celebration. Thinking about authentic tasty Chinese food such as dumplings and New Year cakes, fun and exciting activities like dragon dancing, lion dancing and fireworks, or gifts from elder family members such as red envelops… I was missing all of those festivities a lot. And, of course, it was the quality time with my family that I was missing the most.

Red Pockets ©Hanfeng Zhang

However, soon enough, I learned about news that Chinese Students & Scholars Association (CSSA) was going to organize their annual Chinese New Year Banquet at the U of A. I felt so excited. I got the event ticket immediately and was so looking forward to this day eagerly. At the same time, I was very curious about the banquet and had many questions — “What kind of Chinese food will they serve?” “Will they use Chinese language at the banquet?” and “What if I don’t like it and feel more homesick…?” With those questions in my mind, this event day finally came.

On Saturday, February 2, I got all decked out in my Cheongsam that I brought from China. When I arrived at the Union building, many members of CSSA were already there welcoming guests to the event with red pockets. I took a moment, stood there and looked around.The place was really bustling, just like the festivity feelings back home. Friends greeted each other happily and the Union Ballroom entrance was decorated beautifully. I went into the Union Ballroom and found my friends there. Some of them said to me “Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year)” in Chinese, which made me just so happy.

Kanfu Panda Performance ©Hanfeng Zhang

After dinner time, the gala evening started. Programs on the stage showed the Chinese culture through singing, dancing, doing Kung Fu and a gorgeous fashion show for traditional Chinese cultural attires. Among those performances, my favorite was Kung Fu Panda dancing since our friends from all over the world also joined this fun performance for this New Year’s event. Especially because I knew they practiced it and prepared themselves for it for a long time, I really appreciated it and enjoyed this opening performance.

During the banquet, I was simply happy and satisfied. And I realized “Wow, this is just like a big family!” I watched performances with my friends and we spent such memorable moments together. I didn’t feel homesick at all. My new friends were there with me.

Qiwei (on the right) and her friends

All of the sudden, I remembered my childhood memory, the time when my mother whispered to me on one of Chinese New Year celebration days long time ago — “Anyone who celebrates the New Year together is your family.”

It made me so warm within me and I had a really great day at the CSSA’s Chinese New Year Banquet.

I hope the Year of the Snake will bring good luck to all of us. Upon welcoming this new year and experiencing new cultures with new friends from all over the world, I really hope that I can improve my English and gain different perspectives to look at the world. Also, I hope more and more people will learn about the diverse Chinese culture and I am more than happy to share my culture throughout this journey.


Thank you, Qiwei, for sharing your story. Being away from home gives you opportunities to appreciate your own culture more. I hope you’ll experience and learn more about not only the U.S. culture but also other cultures through your friends.

To view all the performances from the CSSA’s event, please visit the play list.

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