April 15th, 2017 was a bright day in early spring. Things dormant under the earth came to life again upon the arrival of spring. The atmosphere of spring was not only found among flowers and grass, but also permeated the Friendship Guesthouse of Jilin University which witnessed the inauguration of the second phase of pairing between international students and Chinese host families, a program initiated by College of International Education.
This event recruited 80 Chinese families and 172 international students. Li Meihua, Dean of College of International Education, delivered the opening speech. She briefly introduced the program of pairing international students with Chinese families and watched with every body else a short video of families interaction during the first phase. She hoped that international students could value this chance of entering Chinese families to experience the traditional Chinese culture and establish memorable friendships across countries.
Professor Zhou Changhai, who was the representative of parents during the first phase, shared his interactions with foreign students and how he felt. Professor Zhou treated Donny, the foreign student paired with his family, like his own child. He invited him to spend all the holidays and festivals at his home. When making the eight-ingredient porridge in celebration of the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, he explained the meaning of the over 20 kinds of beans used as ingredients to Donny. Plus, the family of Professor Zhou went skiing and swimming with Donny as well, made a suit of traditional Chinese clothing for him during the Spring Festival, and ate sunflower seeds together on bed while watching the Spring Festival Gala. Professor and Donny cannot communicate in the same language. When his son was not around, Professor used a translation software to talk to Donny on Wechat. However, as Professor said, when hearts are connected, language barriers do not matter. Warmth and care transcends country borders and languages. Love is simply enough to make people family members to each other.
Rojpibulstit Pimpaka, a Thai student, is the representative of international students during the first phase. She shared her experiences and feelings. Her “Chinese family” and she cooked together and talked about customs, having a wonderful time. As Xiao Guilan said, getting a host family was not just an activity but also a bond between international students and Chinese families and a window for international students to know China. Xiao Guilan extended her best wishes to the international students of the second phase, hoping that they could feel the warmth of their host families and that they could become family members that would take care of each other.
Teacher Bu Tiejun, the representative of host families in the second phase, spoke in both Chinese and English. Putting himself in the shoes of foreign students, he talked about how they felt in China, which struck a chord with the foreign students present. Teacher Bu thanked College of International Education for providing this chance. Host families, especially those with children, could thus keep up with the globalization trend, be exposed to diverse cultures and experience the charm of the cultural inclusiveness in the global village. At last, he expressed his warm welcome and best wishes to foreign students that were about to live with Chinese families.
Jia Lan, the representative of international students in the second phase, expressed their expectation. Jia Lan said “Friendship comes from keeping each other company over a long time”. This is what many Chinese-learning international students feel deep at heart. When they newly arrived, language and cultural differences made them too shy to communicate. It was the thoughtfulness and care of teachers and friends that led them to gradually open themselves up, begin to speak Chinese and then love Chinese. Jia Lan hoped that the second phase of the matching program could provide a new platform for them to learn Chinese and expected to see the true China amid familial warmth.
At last, the Chinese host families and the paired international students had conversations freely about moments of their study and daily life. Smiles beamed on every one’s face, and their hearts were drawn closer. This is probably the first step leading to kinship.
The atmosphere of warmth and happiness reigned in the whole meeting venue. At first, they were strangers that felt unnatural; towards the end, they were having fun and did not want to leave. This speaks about the power of culture and love. We could not help but have higher expectation for the wonderful experiences that international students would have in their host families.