West may be best for nation's teenagers

Updated: 2016-10-05 07:45

By Chang Jun(China Daily)

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West may be best for nation's teenagers

A student reads instructions of the International English Language Testing System during the 21st China International Educational Exhibition Tour in Beijing on May 7. A Qing / For China Daily

'Wake-up call'

The three were charged with kidnapping and assaulting an 18-year-old classmate, taking her to a park where she was stripped, beaten, punched, kicked, spat upon, burned with cigarettes and forced to eat her own hair.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Thomas C. Falls said at an earlier hearing that it reminded him of Lord of the Flies, William Golding's 1954 novel about boys stranded on a deserted island without adult supervision who become savage enough to kill each other.

"This is a wake-up call for the 'parachute kid syndrome'," said Yuhan Yang, in a statement read to the court by her attorney. "Parents in China are well-meaning and send their kids thousands of miles away with no supervision and too much freedom. That is a formula for disaster."

The case has attracted widespread attention in China, heightening concerns among parents with children studying abroad. Some observers blame the bad news on the children's psychological immaturity, their ignorance of local laws and codes of conduct or their ingrained waywardness and disrespect for parents and teachers.

Whatever the root cause, members of this group of Chinese international students have been behind too many tragedies.

As sending young children to the US for school becomes more and more fashionable in China, wealthy parents should ask themselves whether their children are ready to live in a foreign country and assimilate to an unfamiliar culture without supervision and hands-on guidance?

Big decision

Xie Gang, a school psychologist at the Fremont Unified School District, said the family decision to send a teenager across the Pacific Ocean to the US is huge. "It takes the efforts of the family, parents, child, and other individuals involved to help make this transition as smooth as possible."

Most of these parachute teens are alone, their parents remain back in China mostly because they still need to work to support the family.

As for lodging, parachute children either go to boarding schools or live with host families. Either way, they need to make an effort to adapt to a foreign culture and surroundings on their own.

At Grier, Emily Chen and her Chinese classmates stay at the school dormitories, a standard room with two beds and one bathroom.

"We want our Chinese international students to assimilate to the local culture and English language quickly by walking out of their comfort zones," said the school principle on orientation night in September 2013.

Difficult adaptation

Chinese students are asked to speak only English on campus, and they share a room with US students. "I struggled to initiate a conversation with my roommate Jackie at the very beginning," Emily Chen said.

Subject learning at the beginning is also challenging. "I couldn't follow the teacher's instruction."

Herald and his wife would make international phone calls to Emily's cellphone on Friday night.

"I remembered at least two to three times I told my daughter to come back if she really felt sad. She was only 15 and still a kid," Chen said.

Food is another headache. Emily usually strolled 10 minutes around the school food court, which is full of US salad, burgers, pizza and cold drinks, and ended up with a cup of noodles. "Stir fry and hot dishes are what I'm so used to. But at Grier, the mixture of the student population does not bring in a nice offering of Chinese food," Emily said.

Fortunately, the influx of Chinese students has boosted the growth of culinary businesses in the neighboring Birmingham area. Chinese cuisine shops featuring Sichuan spicy food and Shandong wheat products draw regular patrons from boarding schools like Grier.

"We all so look forward to weekends so we can take a taxi to Chinatown and have a treat for our Chinese stomachs and taste buds," Emily said.