A WORLD AFFAIR: Senior Fred Xu faced unsympathetic host family, says ‘there could be nothing worse’

Senior Fred Xu

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. 

I’m just so happy that I am graduating so that I don’t have to deal with (UC Educations) anymore,” senior Fred Xu said.

“I hate them so much. At this point I don’t care anymore because I’m graduating. They can’t do anything to me now. That’s why I’m speaking out.”

When Xu enrolled in Country Day for his freshman year in 2013, he was not expecting to feel this way about UC Educations.

While researching American high schools to apply to, Xu did not use UC Educations. But once he had locked down on applying to Country Day, his first agency told him that he had to use UC Educations instead.

When he and his family signed their initial contracts, UC Educations did not have a lawyer to go over the agreements at the time. Xu said that the initial process was “super sketchy,” but since then, UC Educations has tried to improve their system.

Xu said that the first host family that he stayed with in freshman and sophomore year was pleasant. The family helped him with his English skills and took him on trips to Monterey, Santa Barbara and other places.

But Xu’s entire sophomore year was not quite so perfect because in 2014, Xu said that UC Educations raised their fee substantially. When Xu questioned the agency about it, he was told that it was due to inflation in America and that UC Educations was having “financial problems” that they needed the international students to fix.

“(My family and I) tried to fight it, but it was an epic fail, so we just gave up,” Xu said.

Xu said that his family’s emails and calls were ignored, so he talked to head of high school Brooke Wells a couple times about the fee increase. He was told not to worry about it.

“The school cares about giving us a good education, but the host family is not their issue,” Xu said.

“I can understand that because it isn’t really their job, but there should be someone at this school who cares. There’s really no one for us to talk to at school.”

Xu said that Country Day is biased toward UC Educations because of how polite and efficient the staff is.

“If the school complains, UC Educations will get back to them right away,” Xu said. “The school is their client, not (the international students).”

Xu said that even though his parents were very engaged and tried to solve his problems, the differences in time zones and their poor English skills inhibited their communication with the school.

Furthermore, Xu said that the students hold themselves back from complaining.

“(UC Educations) is in charge of my host family situation, so if I (anger) them, I will get into trouble,” Xu said. “If the agency says that they will not work with a student because that student is not being cooperative, then that student cannot come to the school. Nobody wants to take that risk.”

However, two years later, for his second host family, Xu said that he didn’t receive any contact information.

A few days before he left China, he was sent just a picture of his family, their contact information and their address, he said.

Xu believes that the reason why the company informs students of their host families very late in the summer and gives little information is so that students don’t have time to ask for a different host family.

“You have no choice but to stay with these people,” Xu said.

In the following year, Xu contacted the agency in July and asked for information on his third host family as soon as possible, but the agency ignored him and his family, he said.

“It’s not acceptable,” Xu said. “How can you live in somebody’s house when you know nothing about them? It’s really scary!”

Xu said that some host families are very nice because they want to learn about Chinese culture; however, Xu suspects that his second host family took him in just for the monthly $1,000 host family fee.

(Photo used by permission of Xu)
Senior Fred Xu poses on a bench for his senior portrait.

In Xu’s junior year, 2015, he lived with a single mother and her 20-year-old son. The family was middle lower-class, according to Xu.

Xu said that his host mother had a few jobs and that she and her son worked a lot, so he was often home alone.

Once his host mother got home late and wasn’t replying to Xu’s text messages. Normally, Xu would eat lunch meat for dinner, but because there was nothing in the fridge, Xu convinced his host brother to drive him to a restaurant. When they got back, Xu said that his host mother said that he should have waited for her even though it was 8:30 p.m. when she arrived home. She also told her son to save his gas and not drive Xu around anymore.

Xu said that in order to cut costs, his family would not turn on the air conditioning. Xu said that his fan did not do much and that if it was 100 degrees outside, it was 98 degrees in his room.

Xu once asked if he could turn on the air conditioning.

“They said, ‘Are you going to pay for this?’ And I said, ‘Yeah! I’m already paying you for this!’ But they didn’t turn it on,” Xu said.

On top of that, Xu said that his family was unenthusiastic about driving him places. Sometimes Xu would have to pay for an Uber to get home from school. Therefore, Xu did not ask his family if he could tour colleges during spring break.

Xu gave UC Educations repeated reminders about the situation and finally received help the day before he left to go to China for the summer.

Xu said that on that day, local coordinator Russell McCollough came to his house and told his host mother about all of Xu’s complaints and all of the rules she had broken. Xu said that his host mother was very angry and said that he could no longer store his belongings in her garage.

But in his final year at Country Day, Xu was rewarded with a better host family that lives close to the school.

“I’m getting along with (her) very well,” Xu said.

Xu said that his host mother is an excellent chef and that she took him on a visit to University of California, Santa Cruz, which he will attend in the fall. Xu said that his host family even threw him a birthday party. In contrast, his second host family didn’t remember his birthday.

“I had told them (my birthday was coming up) like a week before and said, ‘We could go to a restaurant, and I will pay for (dinner)!’” Xu said. “They didn’t say no, but they totally forgot about it.

“So on my birthday I said, ‘Hey, it’s my birthday! Do you want to do anything?’ And they said, ‘Oh, it’s your birthday? Happy birthday.’ And then they left.”

Xu said that while he had a small celebration at school with friends, he spent the night of his 18th birthday alone in his hot room.

Because of the treatment he received from his second host family, Xu said that he is absolutely prepared for college.

“I survived that host family, and there could be nothing worse than the situation I was in,” Xu said. “So if I go to college, and the cafeteria food is terrible, then it’s fine because I don’t have to starve to death.

“I will have (air conditioning) every day, food whenever I want, and transportation. I’m all set!”

By Sonja Hansen

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