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Experience of a Chinese student in New Zealand
( 2003-10-09 11:13) (Shanghai Star)

I arrived in New Zealand in Palmerston North in July, not knowing that it is one of the coldest months of the year down under. I was still wearing the same T-shirt I had been wearing in Shanghai. Feeling cold as the gales blew, a feeling of helplessness came over me. I realized I was alone in a totally new country and felt a sensation of both excitement and anxiety.

I did not know to what extent the locals would accept a girl like me, or if I would be able to make friends with them. I was like a child starting from scratch, and knew I wanted to explore this new world.

It seems to become a trend for Chinese students to further their studies abroad.
However, a Chinese friend told me that Kiwis spend time only with each other and it is the same with the Chinese. This is very different from Shanghai where we are anxious to communicate with foreigners, to exchange ideas and to improve our spoken English and Chinese.

When I asked my friend why the Kiwis were not interested in making friends with the Chinese, she explained that we had different interests.

However, after being here for more than two months listening and observing, I am beginning to see the real reason why we do not have Kiwi friends. The fault is with the Chinese students, not the Kiwis. Our attitudes are different when we are with Kiwi students.

Many Kiwis think that all Chinese students here must be rich to be able to afford to go to school overseas. The Chinese students have to pay tuition fees of three or four times what the Kiwi student must pay.

But my family is not rich and the three-year tuition fees are very expensive for us. In spite of this, my parents still decided to send me abroad to study. It is important to understand that today in Shanghai, if you have an overseas diploma, it is easier to find a good job.

One foreign friend told me that he believed that Chinese people live their lives always in debt. Yes, I feel that there are many pressures placed upon me that I can no longer remove by myself. I see many Chinese students here who study as hard as they can and do almost nothing else. They are here in New Zealand only to study.

However, Kiwi students have many ways to relax, such as attending hostel balls, going to parties, singing songs loudly, or watching movies.

The same pressures may have a different effect on different individuals. While some Chinese can convert it into motivation, others just lose their endurance like a punctured balloon. They begin searching for a boyfriend or girlfriend, buying a name brand car, skipping classes, and failing their exams.

The most common word I hear from most Chinese students is "failed". When they say "I failed", you can feel their disappointment. When they lose the energy to study, it is very difficult for them to bring back the passion they once had for learning.

They become comfortable living with a boyfriend or girlfriend and refer to each other as "My husband" or "My wife". They feel helpless and lonely, using sex as a comfort to fill the emptiness since they feel they cannot get into the social mainstream. For some people, only sex seems to be able to cure the deep loneliness they feel.

Perhaps it is because of my strong will that I will not give in to this situation. I really want to see something different from what I have heard from my Chinese friends.

Several days ago, I met a Kiwi friend named Linda in the dining hall. She was a lovely and special girl who asked if she could sit next to me and soon we began to chat. She was curious about China and wanted to know all about the country.

When we were talking about study, she said she could not understand why so many Chinese students chose to study for a business degree. I explained that there were many reasons and that I did not believe that all Chinese students liked to study business; many felt they had to choose it so they could get a good job.

Here was another basic difference between Kiwi and Chinese students. When Kiwi students choose to study business it is because they enjoy the subject matter, whereas Chinese students study it even if they do not like it.

In China, a country with a population of 1.3 billion, competition for jobs is really fierce. The Under-Secretary of the Education Department has announced that 76 per cent of graduates found employment. That means about 500,000 graduates have been unable to find employment.

If you have a major in business or computers, it is easier to get a job but if you have a history major, you may spend an additional one and a half years looking for a good job. So, the purpose of studying is to survive rather than to do what interests you.

This fierce competition and high pressure makes young Chinese more realistic and they often choose to sacrifice their happiness as the price of a better life. In Shanghai, there are three criteria for choosing a husband: money, a house, and a car. This has completely changed the meaning of love, but without money, a house, and a car, their lives will be difficult.

Perhaps I am too serious when I speak of marriage, as the Kiwi student Linda told me. Even if there is no bed or house, they can still make love. Although Linda was joking, this is the essential difference in attitudes between us.

There are similarities when Chinese choose a major and a husband. The Chinese always choose to keep an eye on the long term - but who knows how the future will be?

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