After seven years of living in New Zealand, I returned to China only to find myself in a rediscovery of the magic of my homeland.
Not only do I feel surprised at how frequently I meet foreigners in the subway of Beijing, but also at how the Chinese have started to pay attention to real estate investment in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Most surprisingly, I realized more and more of my father's co-workers started to send their children to English-speaking countries as young as 13 years old!
So when those parents sought advice from me on whether such a decision would work, I uttered "never". Why would a Chinese preteen need overseas schooling? Why would they need to bear the loneliness and strong sense of not belonging even before they enter adolescence?
When I went to New Zealand at age 18 I encountered an enormous culture shock. I experienced a totally unfamiliar white culture that did not complement my shyness or humility.
I did not find it easy to get locals to be interested in me, in contrast to how much I was interested in them. And integration into student social life became a nightmare because I did not drink, dance or flirt.
However, after my initial confusion and disorientation, I began to recall the positive memories. What New Zealand offered was a lifestyle beyond a mainstream Chinese one.
Besides coursework, there were different social groups I could mingle with. My friends there were from all parts of the world: Russia, the US, England, Japan, India, Brazil, Germany, Canada, Norway, Argentina and France. In that foreign environment I was forced to learn to get along with those people (otherwise I would have no friends!).
Among them was a US Marine, who initiated a rather sensitive conversation in class criticizing the severe pollution in China, which he said was caused by our government. I was furious that such an irresponsible accusation could be made without solid evidence, so I reminded the class about how distorted American propaganda might get.
In a personal discussion after class he admitted he certainly knew government tricks since he was a Marine. In fact, he began to become interested in China after our unpleasant interaction and invited me to visit Beijing with him and other classmates.
The key to making friends overseas - more patience, more initiative and more understanding - was discovered through my adventure.
New Zealand has a laid-back lifestyle and a high-quality natural environment. It has less pressure, more vineyards, ranches, lakes and mountains than China. During school holidays I visited the Abel Tasman National Park, hiking, camping and even swimming. Each May and during horseracing season I took in the Ellerslie Racecourse. Over the three-month summer break I enjoyed barbeques and quick swims in the sea.
The happy mood and life experiences I've gotten from living overseas are worth a million dollars. Until now I have been in touch with my foreign friends from all walks of life. Without such an overseas experience I would not be as fulfilled as I am now.
So, I encourage Chinese parents to send their children to foreign lands. Go!