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.
Several reasons pushed sophomore Jacqueline Chao to attend high school in America. One was her dislike of the “gaokao,” a Chinese college entry test. Chao said that she finds it ridiculous that one test score determines a student’s whole future in China.
Furthermore, Chao would have had trouble even taking the “gaokao” because she had moved from Xinjiang to Beijing (2,063 miles away) because of Xinjiang’s poor health care system and its frequent Uighur terrorist attacks. Because China requires that students take the “gaokao” in their birth cities, Chao would have been at a loss.
Chao learned about UC Educations and Country Day through Peter Xie, her mother’s friend and director of operations at UC Educations. Chao said that she was already familiar with similar agencies because some of her friends in China used them to apply to American high schools.
So when Xie encouraged her to apply because of her excellent test scores, Chao enrolled and came to Country Day after winter break in her freshman year in 2016.
Before moving to America, Chao said that she learned a few facts about her host family, which includes a 12-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy and their mother and father and their dog.
The family had visited China once before and was interested in Eastern culture, so Chao’s host mother was looking for an enriching cultural experience, according to Chao.
Chao’s host parents also took her in because their daughter was learning Chinese. Chao said that she occasionally practices Chinese with the host daughter and is good friends with her. In fact, she and the family were considering taking the daughter on a trip to China this summer, but the plan fell through.
“They’re actually really nice,” Chao said. “They treat me like part of their family.”
And as part of the family, Chao is also expected to pitch in and help with chores, such as unloading the dishwasher or doing her own laundry. But when she is swamped with homework, Chao said that she can tell her host mother and be easily excused from chores.
Chao said that her host family is always willing to work with her to solve problems. On Oct. 26, Chao went to a concert in San Francisco with sophomore Yanele Ledesma and her brother Ruben and returned to Country Day’s parking lot at 2 a.m. to find her host mother ready to take her home.
Chao is included in her family’s fun activities as well. For example, she is allowed to go to their gym using their membership card. During spring break she visited their grandmother in Monterey and Santa Cruz, and she attended a family member’s wedding in Petaluma last year.
However, Chao’s stay has not been perfect. Because the family lives in El Dorado Hills, which is half an hour from school (an hour if there’s traffic), transportation has posed a couple problems.
Chao said that this year has been particularly difficult since she joined the basketball team and started taking pictures for the Octagon. Chao said that she usually waits until 4:30 p.m. to be picked up by her host father.
“It can be hard to accommodate everyone’s schedule,” Chao said.
Because of the distance and her desire to dedicate more time to extracurriculars, Chao will change host families next school year. But she said that she is worried about the change because “there are a lot of uncertainties.” Chao said that she asked to change host families in March but hasn’t heard anything from UC Educations yet.
“Maybe (UC Educations is) just trying to find a really good (host family),” Chao said.
When Chao has problems, she said that she contacts Xie using WeChat and that he generally replies within a half hour. But Chao said that her treatment might be so favorable because of Xie’s friendship with her mother.
For now, Chao will stay in America for the summer pre-calculus course with the Alvarado family (sophomore Gabi, her father Alvaro, and her mother, Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo).
—By Sonja Hansen