Guest Post: Across America – an international student discovers the US

From the far-northern hill to the far-western coast, I spent twenty days exploring America.

From Syracuse to Los Angeles, I drove on the historic Route 66 to pursue my own American Dream.

From the coldest place to the hottest city, I went through significant weather changes, and I found a new understanding of American sunshine.

From knowing nothing to joking with American friends, I found that culture differences are not that difficult to break, American jokes are not that difficult to understand, and I am better at communicating with people than I thought I was.

Before I came to the U.S. I told myself I need to pursue a road trip, a real road trip in which I drive the car with my own hands. This came to fruition this past summer vacation when one of my friends and I rented a car and started this “dangerous” road trip.

There is a famous road called Route 66, also known as the “Mother Road;” it starts in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica. To gain a deeper understanding of real American culture, we decided to use this road. Our plan was to drive all the way to Los Angeles, use Route 66 when possible and otherwise use state highways.

We planned on doing a round trip in twenty days, so we had to arrive in Los Angeles in less than 10 days. Basically, each day we had to drive to a new city. Apart from cities, we also needed to schedule time to visit natural phenomena such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park. It turned out that every day we needed to drive 7 to 8 hours to complete our plan. We started to drive when sun went up and checked in at a new hotel when the sun went down. We even spent a few nights in the car because hotels were too expensive near some tourist attractions.

All of the effort was worth it.

In Pittsburgh, we appreciated the beauty and long history of Carnegie Mellon University, and we walked in the city to feel the power of energy and steel.

In Chicago, I overlooked the whole city from Willis Tower and tried the city’s famous “deep-dish pizza.”

In St. Louis, I stood in front of the famous Gateway Arch, thinking about why people built it and what they wanted to express.

In Texas, I sat in a traditional steak house and finished a 32-ounce steak with my friend, and then we left our footprint at the mysterious Cardiac Ranch.

In Los Angeles, we wandered on the Walk of Fame to find our favorite movie stars, and we lingered in Beverly Hills, wishing we could meet real stars.

In San Francisco, we were shocked by the art and felt like we could smell creativity in the air, and then we drove our car down the famous Lombard Street.

There are more interesting stories that happened during our road trip, but some of them cannot be expressed by words, only felt by the heart. I strongly suggest to every international student: you need to find someone and plan a road trip, which I promise will be unforgettable.

Xiaofang Wu