Marta and her classmates.
Today we continue with the interview to Marta. If you lost the first part you can read it here.
Studying in a Chinese high-school
Even if you were already studying Chinese in Italy, moving to a Chinese high-school has probably presented some difficult to you. Which are your biggest challenges?
I don’t know whether is a good or a bad thing. However here it works like that:
“You are a foreigner so you don’t have to follow all our rules.”
This is a good news as if I had to respect all the rules I would have already been punished or even expelled. In the same time it’s a bad news because, if I was obliged to do all the homework that the other students do, right now my Chinese would have been much better.
I spend a good part of my day studying Chinese on my desk. I also follow the English lessons (they are 95% in Chinese but they are easier to follow).
Another lesson that I like is chemistry, as I already know most of the things and I like the professor.
At the park with some friends.
What about the teachers?
The Chinese students are really afraid by the teachers. I often hear comments such as “I must study or the professor will get angry,” “I can’t do it or I’ll be punished” or “If they find me they will call my parents and I’m dead.”
Here you don’t study because “learn something” may be useful. You only study because someone else told you to do so, as if we still were at the primary school. If you arrive late you’ll have to spend one hour standing up and facing the wall. If you get a word wrong in a English dictation you’ll have to copy that word from 50 to 750 times (depending on the teacher).
I still have to understand what will happen when two students are discovered in a love relationship (my classmates talk about terrible punishments).
In another hand the Chinese professors work a lot. They arrive at 6:45 in the morning with the students and leave after 6 p.m. Once per week they stay with the students that live at school and that have to stay in the classroom till 9 p.m.
Beside the working time, they check all homework within a day (even the ones given for punishment) and prepare tons of material (Powerpoint presentations and so on) for each lesson.
With respect to my rapport with the professors, some of them just pretend that I don’t exist. Others kind of acknowledge my presence and often ask me some questions as 是不是，越来越听懂? (Are you starting to understand more about the lesson?) or even allow me to actively participate to the lesson.
The typical day of a Chinese student
The morning ceremony in a Chinese high-school (Original source: Youku).
How is the typical day of a Chinese student?
A Chinese student arrives at school each morning at 6:45 and starts to clean the classroom. It’s not a difficult task but must be well-done as the professors will check it.
At 7 a.m. each student starts to review the lesson on his desk till when, at 7:15, the teacher enters the classroom and gives the first test to the students (usually about English vocabulary).
At 7:45 everybody goes out for the daily exercises. Before the drill each classroom has to shout out a slogan.
Then we listen to the national hymn, watch the flag-rising, listen to a discourse given by one of the professors and do a series of gym exercises. Then we come back to the classroom.
After lunch (at 11:45) we are obliged to take a nap. Usually I can’t sleep and I have to wait one hour to start again with the lesson.
The afternoon lessons last from 13:45 to 17:25 with a short interruption for more outdoor exercises.
After school we have to study from three to five hours, according the ability of each student and to the decision of the parents. The students that live at the dorms have to stay in the classroom till 21:30.
Each time that a member of the class makes a mistake or disobeys to an order, the whole class loses points. At the end of the week the best classes are granted with a star in a big blackboard (but I still don’t get what these stars mean).
What kind of liberty have Chinese students?
The school and the families team up in order to control the Chinese students. After that a professor corrected a homework, he sends a personalized sms to the parents of each student with the marks of his son/daughter and the marks of the best student in the class (yes, you must compete with other students and try to be the best in China).
Another interesting point is concerned with the unjustified absences. If a student doesn’t come to school his parents have to call a professor. Conversely, the student will be punished.
But the control of the school is much more deeper than that.
The Chinese students can’t have a love relationship because this would disturb the main goal: get the final diploma. Girls can’t get a perm and guys can’t have long hairs. And so on… at the beginning of the year you get a small book that lists all the rules. I can tell you that they are a lot.
An excursion with the class.
Marta, your story shows that nowadays Western students have the possibility to travel even when they are really young. I think that many people stay at home because they are afraid of what they don’t know, instead of because a real lack of resources. What’s your take on it?
I agree! Today it’s possible to create the conditions for traveling by ourselves. Of course staying at home and complaining while mom prepares our lunch and washes our clothes is easier. When you decide to leave you don’t really know what you’ll find.
But then you leave and you are overwhelmed by new adventures and emotions.
Vacation in Suzhou.
I know that I’m only sixteen. So maybe for me it’s easier to talk on this way. I didn’t have to give up too many things in order to come here. But I did have a good life in Italy: I was a good student, I was a decent gymnast, I had a ton of friends and a boyfriend. However I left anyway. And I believe that the experience was worth the effort.
Help me to debunk the myth that traveling is dangerous. Have you ever felt that you were on danger in China?
Yep, everyday when I cross the road : P
No, really, China is completely safe. In my experience much safer than Italy. And, considered my blond hair, I think it’s quite easy to see that I’m foreigner here.
Ofter the people that love us the most are also the ones that try to thwart our dreams. Sometimes they do it unconsciously, to protect us or because they fear that, if we travel, we will change (which is true). How was your experience?
Many people told me that I was crazy. The day before I left, my cousin claimed that this was the biggest mistake of my life. My grandmother even told me that Chinese people would have infected me with herpes. LoL!
But in general my friends were quite supportive. Also my parents reacted quite well. I think that it helped the fact that I didn’t wake up one day saying “Hey dad, tomorrow I’m going to China.” It was a slow process, so they had the time to “digest” my decision.
What do you miss more about Europe?
Not that much. I miss going out at night, discuss about politics, eat pizza and ice cream, my gym and say hello with two kisses.
If you could come back to last year, would you still choose China?
How this experience changed you?
I will answer to this question next year. At the moment I have no idea : P
Marta, thank you for your time. You seem a quite mature girl and I’m sure you’ll do well. How do they say in China? Ah yes, 加油！