We love technology here at SYA, especially because it recently allowed us to sit down with SYA China Resident Director, Hilde Becker, and two students currently abroad, Gisela and Tahrieq, to chat about SYA China. They may be located halfway across the world, but we were able to discuss studying abroad in high school and what life has been like for them these past couple of months. As we were ending our day here at the home office in North Andover, MA, the students and teachers were just starting their day in Beijing!
We figure, if you’re interested in high school study abroad with SYA what better way to get a feel for life in a different country than the students who are experiencing it right now? It does take a particular type of person to drop everything you're familar with and immerse yourself in a new country and culture.
Hilde said it perfectly: “The students who are attracted to SYA China are, generally speaking, quite adventurous because it’s challenging...You leave your family, your school, your friends, anything that is familiar to you and are willing to embrace the unfamiliar, a new culture and you do that while you’re living with a Chinese host family. That takes a bit of courage.”
Meet Gisela and Tahrieq
Gisela is from Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C. and applied to SYA after hearing about the high school study abroad program for several years. In 8th grade she took a school trip to China and was even able to visit the SYA China campus in Beijing. “I wanted to be here to learn Chinese,” said Gisele, now a junior at SYA China, “And I know this is the best place for me to do it.”
Tahrieq is a junior from Millbrook School in New York, and decided to apply to SYA to strenghthen his chinese language skills. “I felt the only way to push my boundaries as a foreign language learner was to immerse myself in the culture of that country,” he continues, “SYA was the perfect fit for me.”
Host Families Become Your Real Family
SYA: Tell us a little bit about your host families in China. What are they like? What do you do with them on the weekends, is it similar or different than your life at home?
Gisela: “It’s all very different. I live with my mother, father and little sister. I’m usually the little sister back at home so I’m getting a little bit of a taste what it’s like to be the older sister. They let us into their house and they do it with a smile and they serve me food all the time and it’s delicious. My little sister is the most talented 11-year-old I’ve ever met, she’s incredible. She helps me with my Chinese homework and I help her with her English homework. This is the second year that my family is hosting and they’re still chatting with the student from last year. They talk maybe once every two weeks. They’re still in strong contact and I know I’ll be the same. I really love my host family."
Tahrieq: "The host family is by far the bread and butter of SYA. It’s where you have the best experiences. I can go home to my host family and have a family dinner and it’s very different from the United States where everyone has their own dish. In China, there’s food in the middle of the table and everyone takes what they want. On the weekends, my host family will either go see a movie, go to northern Beijing to see my host mother’s family or we might go see my dad’s parents who live out on the suburbs of Beijing. There are plenty of different things we can do. There’s never a set schedule, they’re always very spontaneous when they want to take me out."
To hear more from Gisela and Tahrieq watch the recording of our Google+ Hangout below. Then, start your appplication to study abroad in high school with SYA!