An Ocean Away

By Konnie Guo

Edited by Cynthia Brian

Teenagers form a large community all around the world. In China, it is no exception. Last summer, I visited Shanghai, China, where I had the wonderful opportunity to find out what the life of a Chinese teen is like. San Francisco and Shanghai are separated by over 6,000 miles, so while teenagers in both areas have drastic differences, they also share surprising similarities.

Every high school student stresses out about getting into the right college, and in China, the pressure is even greater. The college application process is highly competitive, requiring dedication, diligence, and determination. For most teens, their college acceptance rests on a single exam: the National College Entrance Examination, or “gao kao.” Once they have received their results, students must apply to only three schools to which they send their scores. According to nineteen-year-old Chinese student Wei Shen, “I was very worried that I would not score high enough on the exam to get into the college I wanted.” Luckily, Shen did extremely well and is currently studying to become an airplane engineer.

Additionally, in mainland China (not including Taiwan or Hong Kong), major websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are banned. While it is still a common sight to see teenagers toting around their iPhones, they have to resort to other forms of social media and entertainment.

Moraga teen Yurika Kazama explains, “Facebook is used so ubiquitously nowadays that it has practically become a form of communication.” Luckily for Kazama, if she were ever to visit China, she would find plenty of alternatives. For example, the app WeChat is becoming increasingly popular as a method of communication, acting as a substitute to its American counterpart, Facebook messenger.

Chinese teens are undoubtedly miles apart from those in California , both figuratively and literally. However, there is a trait that makes every teenager in the world connected to each other—we’re teens! So, while we might take apart and examine all the differences of living in China, the undeniable bond of simply being a teenager makes us just one step closer to one another.

Konnie Guo is a high school senior where she is a member of Club BTSYA. She is an avid reader, and during her spare time, enjoys playing the piano and doing volunteer work. 

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As the editor and teen coach for Teen Scene for the newspaper, Cynthia Brian has had the opportunity to work with talented teens with attitude and opinions. She shares selected published works. To read numerous articles shepherded by Cynthia, visit Cynthia Brian also produces Express Yourself!™ on Voice America Kids Network heard Tuesdays NOON PT at or for photos, descriptions, links, and more visit

More information about the show at

Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio is produced by Cynthia Brian of Starstyle® Productions, llc as an outreach program of Be the Star You Are!® charity. For information on being a guest email To make a tax-deductible donation to keep this positive youth programming broadcasting weekly to international audiences, visit Thanks for supporting teens!

:// Thanks for supporting teens!


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