Meet Elaine Ho!

Overpriced bubble tea with artificial additives and avocado stuffed sushi rolls are a small part of the culture shock Yi-Yen Ho, known at TCNJ as Elaine, has encountered while living in America.

As an international student from Taiwan, Elaine is experiencing her second year at The College of New Jersey studying biology.

“The way Taiwanese people interact is really different from how Americans interact with each other,” she says. “In America, people immediately give compliments. When you get to know people in Taiwan, it’s slower than how Americans get to know each other.”

She came to understand how open Americans can be, saying it’s easy to make a ton of friends here. At first, getting used to this way of making friends was challenging as she worried about meeting genuine friends because of cultural differences.

“At home, it may take longer to get closer with our friends and to open our hearts,” she says. “Here, it’s good because you know many people but it might be harder to find a true friend. Sometimes I wonder if I can fully trust a person or not and I’ll have a debate in my mind.”

One of her favorite memories from last year was when she made her first true friend, not just a person who would say hi or that she was friendly with. 

This year, Elaine is busy with her coursework and an extracurricular activity she never expected to be involved with...a sorority.

“Honestly, I totally forgot that there’s such a thing as sororities in the US college life,” she says. “I started to think about it because one of my friends from high school joined a sorority at her American university.”

She went out to a few sorority interest sessions last fall. When spring recruitment rolled around, Elaine felt like she had not seen many Asian students in Greek life, leading her to debate rushing.

Ultimately, one of her friends encouraged her to go out for it. She eventually joined TCNJ’s chapter of  Alpha Xi Delta.

“Now, I’m really glad that I made this decision,” she says. “It is so different from what I’ve seen on TV shows or movies. I’ve met so many different friends and I feel at home when I’m with my sisters.”

Elaine lives at TCNJ during the semester and returns home on a 15 hour flight to Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, during winter and summer breaks.

“Last year I got homesick when I realized people would go home for holidays and Thanksgiving and could see their families whenever they wanted,” she says.

She ended up going to a friend’s home to experience her first Thanksgiving.

Her feelings beginning college in America were a roller coaster. It was exciting for her arriving in the summer before freshman fall with her parents. 

However, one of the hardest experiences for her was seeing her parents cry for the first time that July when she had to say goodbye to them.

Although she enjoyed her first fall semester, she was excited to go home for winter break.

When Elaine is in Taiwan, where she speaks Mandarin Chinese, she is reunited with her parents, younger brother, and old friends.

One of the things she loves about home is how everything is in close proximity, given Taiwan’s small size. She was shocked to hear how some TCNJ students consider an hour drive as short.

In Kaohsiung, she loves going out to the night market or going out to sing karaoke. 

One of her favorite beverages from home and of all time is bubble tea. Unfortunately, Elaine has found that bubble tea in America is much more artificial and expensive. .

“The bubble tea here is definitely different. At home they put honey in first and add real Taiwanese milk tea,” she says, preferring bubble tea from Taiwan. “In America, there’s no honey and they add fake stuff. The bubbles are also more soft.”

The differences in food is another large part of the culture shock Elaine has experienced in America.

“There are so many different kinds of people in the US so they make everything American,”she says.

In Taiwan, there is no such thing as putting avocado in a sushi roll which makes the title of the avocado stuffed “California” roll more sense.

“They may put some American flavor into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian foods. It’s really interesting because I can taste the different stuff,” Elaine says.

She loves to eat rice and she has a rice cooker in her room in the Townhouses. “Americans cook rice differently, it’s more chewy at home.”

Elaine has yet to try out Taiwanese food in America.

IMG Source: Elaine Ho

She chose to study at TCNJ because of the great job opportunities in the field of medicine surrounding New Jersey. She believes it is a great place to find internships or jobs in the future.

“I also like smaller classes. TCNJ has the perfect class and campus size. I like not having to walk too far to class,” she says.

Elaine went to a bilingual school from preschool until seventh grade that follows the Taiwanese education system but has more English classes and English native speakers as teachers.

“My English was always better than a student who went to the normal, local schools. However, I realized it was not enough when I transferred to I-Shou International School in eighth grade,” she says.

I-Shou is the first school in Taiwan to offer and follow the International Baccalaureate program, preparing students to study internationally.

There, all of Elaine’s classes were taught in English.

“I noticed that by being in an environment where everyone speaks English, it really does help a person learn the language,” she says. “Now, I feel like coming to American helped even more because you’re forced to speak only English.” 

Her friends from I-Shou are currently studying in different places around the world as well. In America, she has friends studying in states such as California, Chicago, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Outside of the US, she has friends in Germany and France.

Elaine has visited America prior to TCNJ. In 2014, she visited Seattle. In 2016, She visited Boston in 2016 to attend a summer camp and had visited New York for fun.

Now in her sophomore year, Elaine is looking forward to continuing meeting different people and having fun sisterhoods with the girls in her sorority.

Her goals for this year is to have a higher GPA, to pass all of her classes, make more friends, and most importantly…to always be herself.

When asked what advice she would give to her freshman self that anyone can follow, Elaine says; “be open and don’t be afraid because there are so many kind people out there. Just be yourself.

IMG Sourc​e: Elaine Ho