School of Management students Fay Teplitsky and Yingzi (Alex) Dong come from different walks of life but have found a common bond at NYIT. Teplitsky grew up in Wayne, N.J. Dong is from Qing Dao, a city in the Shan Dong province of Northeast China. Over lunch at Empanada Mama near NYIT's Manhattan campus, they shared their experiences on and off campus.
The Box: How did you meet?
Teplitsky: Statistics class during Yingzi's first semester at NYIT. That was fall 2013.
The Box: What's it like to be a Chinese student in New York City?
Dong: It's exciting. The city is spontaneous and interesting. Sometimes little things are hard. I wish in China they would teach us more about American culture, like how to order food or make a resume.
The Box: What about the other way around? What did you learn well about Western culture while living in China?
Dong: I started English summer camp when I was 10 years old and became fluent. Chinese parents invest a lot in their children learning English. At camp I chose my English name, Alex. I took it from the main character of the TV series Nikita. It means stronger and healthier.
The Box: How do Chinese and American students mix at NYIT?
Teplitsky: The Chinese students tend to sit together in classes. In our financial accounting class, the professor noticed and changed up the seating so every other person was Chinese and someone else. I thought it was a great idea.
Dong: Many Chinese students study in America to improve their English and then go back to China to work, so we don't spend as much time socializing with others. It's just a different cultural perspective.
The Box: Is technology a common denominator for Chinese and American students?
Teplitsky: We love the online video game League of Legends. I play with many other Chinese students, but actually Yingzi doesn't like it.
Dong: We all use online messaging services such as WeChat. Snapchat and Instagram are popular with American and Chinese students, too. Facebook is more for Americans. Chinese students prefer Ren Ren, the Asian version of Facebook.
The Box: What else have you learned from each other?
Teplitsky: She's teaching me Mandarin.
Dong: Fay is helping me to find out about campus activities and get involved in NYIT clubs. In China, clubs are different. Students join them for membership, but there are not many planned events or opportunities to do more.
Teplitsky: Last year she also invited me for my first Chinese New Year, and I saw how Chinese students celebrate together. That was the night I got addicted to red bean dumplings. They're called Yuan Ziao, or boiled dumplings filled with red bean, black sesame, or peanuts.
Dong: We cook the dumplings together at an apartment, eat and watch TV. It's a low-key gathering. Fay and I will celebrate again together this month. Chinese New Year is Feb. 19.
The Box: So what do you think of the food at Empanada Mama?
Dong and Teplitsky: We like it. We enjoyed the Cheeseburger and Cuban empanadas.
Know Before You Go: Empanada Mama
Location: 763 9th Ave., between 51st and 52nd Streets, empmamanyc.com
Food: Empanadas are stuffed pastries, baked or fried, served sweet or savory, and best eaten warm. Utensils are optional. The perfect empanada oozes with fragrant filling when cut open. At this restaurant, they're served in baskets and have quirky names.
Prices: Cheap. Average price per empanada is $2.75-2.95.
Lunch scene: Casual and bustling, especially from noon to 2 p.m. It's a little walk from NYIT's Manhattan campus. Leave at the start of free hour and return in time for afternoon classes.
Yucca frita: fried cassava served with guacamole. Try it spicy.
Empanadas: Cheeseburger (ground beef cooked in traditional Latin spices with cheddar cheese), Cuban (slowly roasted pork, ham with mozzarella cheese and a touch of sofrito sauce), TJC (mama's tuna melt with cheddar cheese and jalapeños).