Thursday, June 09, 2011

Exchange Student Notes: Final Edition

(We had the pleasure of hosting an International student for the past two school years. Sally is her fake American name. Previous editions are here, here, here, and here)

  • Sally has a pretty nifty phone that had a very adept translator on it. During her first week with us she had that phone out all the time punching stuff into it. I don't think I saw her use it as much her whole second year combined as that first week, so improved was her English (and whenever she did use the translator it was on rather horrid words with multiple meanings. "Circumcised" comes to mind, yeah that was fun to explain).
  • Sally is looking at going to a U.S. college next year and she seems to mostly be looking at schools in the Midwest. What's interesting is that international students have to pay the 'rack rate' for college tuition, in other words, they have to cover all the tax subsidies themselves. Now the ROI on higher end four year schools in general is fading away, and that's at the tuition rates citizens (and illegal aliens) pay. Imagine if you would, paying $40,000 a year to go to a state school in Ohio. I've told her on more than occasion that money may well be gone, never to be seen again. My analysis is highly dependent on what field she goes into and how well she does. My guess would be though that, since she is pretty bright, she would make just as much money in her career with a $5,000 associates degree in computer programming from the local community college as she would if she blew upwards of $150,000 to get a degree in the fields that she's looking at.
  • Sally has taken to watching one of two shows that we watch with dinner (bad form I know, perhaps our table will be cleaned off one day). One show is the British Top Gear and the other is Bizarre Foods. On more than one occasion Sally's two dimensional English abilities have let her down when those shows inevitably bring up awkward terms. It's not very comfortable being put in the place of having to explain what 'rooster ball soup' or a 'wedding vegetable basket' is.
  • So last year she went to a public high school and this year she went to a private high school. This year she heard some of her classmates debating about where to get their prom dresses and she inquired to Mrs. Sandmich why they didn't have a used prom dress sale like they did at her school last year. I'm guessing that the Chinese commies have been lax in relating tales of horror of the bourgeoisie versus the proletariat.
  • Speaking of lax education, before staying with us Sally didn't know that a number of her countrymen spoke a language (or dialect) other than her own (her's being Mandarin). Likewise, every time I bring up the geography local to China, she seems not to believe me (like how Kazakhstan is close to China, etc). I'm guessing Chinese schools teach music and math lessons, then lightly touch on physical fitness and leave the rest up to chance. On a semi-related note, I was further aggravated when I asked her what they do in China on someone's birthday: "I dunno". Being the smartasss that I am I then related that, since she was from China, I kind’a depended on her to know stuff about her country. The actual answer was, that apparently birthdays aren't that big of a deal over there.
  • We're in the third year of gardening and in the last two years only one person in the house has come out to help me....
  • For the past two years I'd made it a point to buy snacks and unhealthy treats in an effort to put a pound or two onto that girl. Alas the effort has failed as a weigh-in at the mall put her twenty pounds under the target weight for her height (as for the other members of the Sandmich household...).
  • I never watched Sponge Bob until Sally stayed with us, and I must admit that somehow I didn't watch it with her the first year that she stayed with us. I caught myself watching some episodes this year though and have decided that if Sponge Bob is on, it's highly doubtful that there's anything better on. Likewise, I could not fully appreciate the movie Final Fantasy: Spirit's Within until I watched it with a teenage Asian girl. And no I'm not kidding, the finer moments of the film escaped my attention when last I saw it a decade ago (she was quite amazed when I told her it was a box office bust in the U.S. and instead of being a mainstream hit, was relegated to the anime shelves at Best Buy).
  • There was a dark moment earlier in the year when Sally's parents were supposed to visit the New York over Chinese New Year. Although they were taking a 'canned' tour, our hope was that some sort of meeting could be arranged. What followed next brought to light something that puzzled me from the "exchange student get-go". Whenever Sally was in China and needed to come to the States, there was always a coordination of paperwork between Mrs. Sandmich, Sally, and...the Chinese Embassy. "Odd" I thought, "what would the Chinese embassy care about legal entry into the U.S.". I figured it was some sort of crossed wire and that she was getting her passport or such from the Chinese Embassy while going to the American Embassy to make sure that her papers were in order. Her parents case cleared that confusion up for me, for when the goons that run the country found out that both their daughters, a sister, and niece were all in America, their exit visas were denied to them as they were deemed a flight risk. Sally was distraught on two fronts, the first obviously being that she wouldn't get to see her parents, but the second feeling some level of shame and anger towards the homeland that she is rather proud of. As John Derbyshire has noted, national pride is a natural and respectable feeling, and I often reinforced some of the positive points of her homeland, while playing down some of the negative (she was more than aware of negatives than I, and thus found it not worth playing up). The level of helplessness was copious on all sides, and I have to say that I hope that the jackbooted thuggery that's currently tearing across the U.S. is squelched and that the prison planet doesn't make a full, ugly debut here as well.

And that's enough of that. If I think of anything else, I'll throw it in the comments!


EK said...

Celebrating a birthday as we do here is a practice that was unknown in most of East Asia until comparatively very recently. It was introduced not too many decades ago along with other imported Western cultural influences, but the practice is probably still not really well established.

Evil Sandmich said...

I read that the actuall birthday (like when one is actually born, as opposed to the birthday anniversary) can be a big deal, but the absence of anything on subsequent birthdays kinda told me it rather non-existent.

I did remember that bit though about how Sally would be signed into a web page that looked exactly like Facebook, but she would explain that it was 'Chinese Facebook' (Renran if I had to guess). My only thought was "What? American Facebook isn't evil enough for you?"