A WORLD AFFAIR: Junior Howard Yuan banned from joining basketball team, then suddenly required to switch host families

(Photo used by permission of Yuan)
Junior Howard Yuan, right, eats with his current host parents and freshman Ted Zhou.

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. 

In 2014, his freshman year, junior Howard Yuan wanted to join Country Day’s basketball team. Yuan said that he had always liked the sport and thought that it would be a really good experience for him. But when Yuan asked his host family about it, they said that the basketball schedule would be very difficult for them to accommodate, so Yuan couldn’t join the team.

That was what life was like for Yuan during the two years that he lived with his first host family. In his freshman year, he and his cousin, junior Crystal Jiang, shared the family, but she moved out as she entered sophomore year because she wanted to improve her English and disliked their host family.

Yuan said that he also “really didn’t like them” because he had frequent arguments with the family about their house rules (see Crystal’s story). But he also said that he didn’t argue with his host parents all the time because he didn’t want to get into trouble with the agency. He said that by causing trouble he risked losing his visa.

“I don’t want people to think I’m a really bad kid,” Yuan said. “I try to behave.”

Yuan did not move out despite the arguments because he thought that it would be too much work to move his things out of their house.

Furthermore, Yuan said that he did not complain of his situation to director of admissions Lonna Bloedau, head of high school Brooke Wells or his local coordinators because he is “really flexible.”

“It’s really hard to say something bad about my host family because I’m living in their house,” Yuan said.

Junior Howard Yuan

Language also posed a problem for Yuan. If he were to complain, he would have had trouble explaining his situation in English.

But Yuan said that most international students choose not to complain because they don’t want to get in trouble with UC Educations, so they try to solve any problems themselves.

“The agency makes me feel really uncomfortable,” Yuan said while tucked into the fetal position and playing with his shoes. “I don’t want to leave Country Day. Country Day is a really good school. But I want to leave the agency.”

So, like Jiang, when Yuan heard during his freshman year that senior Kevin Huang was planning to organize a meeting between the international students and the school to explain their issues with UC Educations, he thought about attending the meeting. But when Peter Xie, director of operations for UC Educations, heard of this, he called Yuan’s parents and told them to convince Yuan that he would get into trouble if he allied with Huang.

Consequently, Yuan did not go forward with the plan.

Yuan put up with his host family’s rules until April of his sophomore year, when the family suddenly announced that they were moving to North Dakota and that he needed to move out.

“I was really angry about that,” Yuan said. “They didn’t communicate with me.”

A couple weeks later, his first host family placed him with a temporary host family for the remaining two months of school, but Yuan said that this family was nicer than his first.

In the summer before junior year, Yuan was put into his current host family with freshman Ted Zhou by UC Educations. His “totally different” host family is open to driving him to concerts, according to Yuan. They also taught him how to drive and helped him get his license.

But Yuan said that he still struggles with the agency’s rule about flying from Sacramento to the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) whenever he flies home to Beijing. He said that his current host family is willing to drive him to SFO for free because he is treated like their own child. But Yuan continues to fly to SFO because Zhou told him that if international students get a ride to the airport, they will be kicked out of school.

By Sonja Hansen

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