In the following installments are the experiences of international students (seniors Kevin Huang and Fred Xu, juniors Howard Yuan and Crystal Jiang, and sophomore Jacqueline Chao) and the Ryan host family with UC Educations, a third-party organization that facilitates students coming from China to the United States.
Junior Crystal Jiang said that if she could give an international student one piece of advice, it would be to avoid using an agency like UC Educations at all costs.
When Jiang and her cousin, junior Howard Yuan, first began to apply to schools in America, they used a different agency to handle their applications. The pair was soon admitted to Country Day, but at the time, they had no idea that they were required to use UC Educations.
After discovering that they had to go through this agency, she and Yuan were placed in the same host family for their freshman year.
Jiang said that their host parents forced them to go to a Christian church every Wednesday and Sunday. At first Jiang, who does not follow any religion, was optimistic and said that she was open to the new experience. But after several weeks, Jiang said that she no longer wanted to go, so she repeatedly told the family and UC Educations. Her attempts to avoid the services were all in vain.
Besides being forced to attend religious services, Jiang said that she and Yuan had to use their computers in the living room because their host parents wanted to know what she and Yuan were doing online. Their laptops were also collected every night at 10 p.m.
In addition, Jiang and Yuan were prohibited from using the family’s Wi-Fi, so she paid $60 every month to buy cellular data for her phone. (They were allowed to use the Wi-Fi for their laptops, but only while being monitored.)
Food was also an issue for Jiang. While at the grocery store, her host family would dissuade her from buying snacks for school because it would cost them money, according to Jiang. Also, every Wednesday after church, the family would buy Chipotle for themselves, while Jiang and Yuan were required to eat at the church.
Once, Jiang came home from school and found that she had received a birthday postcard from Country Day. One of her host parents had placed it on her desk. Even though the card had included her birthdate, her host family didn’t say happy birthday or do anything to celebrate, she said.
In October 2014, Jiang requested to change host families. UC Educations told her that she could probably move out by February 2015. But as time went on, the agency kept pushing back her move.
At some time in her freshman year, Jiang heard that current senior Kevin Huang wanted to organize a meeting with Country Day to discuss their problems with the international student program. Because of the agency’s inefficiency and how rarely it checked in with the students, Jiang considered joining Huang’s group.
However, Peter Xie, director of operations of UC Educations, heard of the plan and called Jiang’s mother in China to tell them that Jiang would get in trouble if she allied with Huang. Jiang’s mother told her not to get involved, so she didn’t attend the meeting.
Jiang was finally notified that a new host family had been found at the end of summer as she entered sophomore year. And Jiang said that her current host family is much better.
“They like to take me anywhere I want to go, such as Arden (Fair) mall,” Jiang said. “They don’t force me to do anything I don’t want to do, and I have a lot more free time.
“They take me to the market and tell me to get whatever food I like. They have a daughter, Julie, and she (helps) me study.”
However, according to Jiang, UC Educations still does little to help her. During spring break she and Yuan went home to visit their family in Beijing. After the break Jiang was unable to leave the country because her passport had expired.
Jiang said that her mother called Xie to ask about contacting Country Day and shortening the wait for a new passport. Jiang said that Xie did not answer their questions and told her mother that head of high school Brooke Wells would be very upset about Jiang missing school.
Jiang was unable to use Google Mail in China, so she downloaded a VPN on Apple Store to contact Wells, her teachers and her host family.
In the three weeks Jiang waited for her passport, she said that no staff member from UC Educations ever contacted her.
—By Sonja Hansen