Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Families

I read transcripts of interviews of six Hong Kong high school students who have returned in the past two years from a year abroad on AFS. Their stories are incredibly moving; they reflect on the cultural differences and how they’ve learned to be more active, to take the initiative, and to adapt to sometimes difficult conditions (e.g. living with 10 people in a small, working class home, in a tropical country with no AC).

Especially interesting is reading that the students say that they find other cultures very family oriented. One student in America commented that his family did not like for him to go to his room upstairs with his laptop. He commented that the family watched TV together every evening on the family sofa. They expected him to work on his laptop at the kitchen table, near where other family members were also doing homework. Of course, not all Americans are so family-oriented, but this is what you’d expect of AFS families. A student who had gone to Italy commented that she, like her classmates, was expected to go home to have lunch and dinner with her (host) family every day, and that they went to visit relatives a lot, “not like in Hong Kong.”

Several interviewees commented on how they really learned to see different meanings of life, that life was not only about work. I especially find it interesting that Chinese students discover other cultures value family, because hearing elite Chinese discourse, sometimes one would think only Confucians had families.

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