This summer Xiaolin, an 18-year-old girl, turned to a Dalian-based psychologist for help. After two years spent abroad, she failed to fit in with either class or community there. She was forced to return home and study what she had skipped earlier, according to a Liaoning Peninsula Morning News report.
Xiaolin is not the first such case, nor will she be the last, as studying abroad has now become vogue in China and attracts increasingly more young people. She made up her mind to study abroad when she entered high school, because she was fed up with frequent tests in her Chinese school and wanted to avoid the College Entrance Examination.
The decision was supported by her parents, who deeply felt that a high quality overseas education would distinguish their daughter from her classmates, and knew they had the financial means to follow through. Therefore, after one year's study in a domestic high school, Xiaolin was sent to Britain.
Yet this new life held unexpected challenges for Xiaolin. While many of her old classmates were enrolled in college two years later, she was instead stuck in a language test, ineligible to apply for any higher education in Britain. She had no choice but to fly home to prepare herself for ILETS.
In two years' time, Xiaolin's parents had already spent more than 300,000 RMB on her education, yet the money was rendered useless by her failure to adapt herself to life abroad.
"I couldn't integrate with British society," Xiaolin told her counselor, describing what she considered to be a nightmarish experience.
"Every day I closed myself inside my room, chatting online with old Chinese classmates, eating things and gaining weight. I realized the more I was isolated from the outside world, the more scared and lonely I felt and I missed my family desperately."
There are more Xiaolins out there.
A middle school student, dreaming of the free environment in foreign schools, gave up on working hard in the first year after he graduated from primary school and waited to go abroad. It is no surprise that he later ended up back in his Chinese middle school. The lack of sufficient language skills and a weak foundation hindered him from enjoying his so-called freedom. In fact, the only noticeable progress he made is in his English performance.
Elementary knowledge is essential for overseas study, but this fact is neglected by many parents and kids who believe that money can solve anything. Instead, parents should learn to change their mindset, and realize that a life far away from home is not suitable for every child. It is risky to bet on the future of your kids.
Huang He, a national psychology consultant points out that such teenage returnees share a common identity as escapees: escape from exams and escape from burdens and pressures in China. They have problems adapting to their environment, be it home or abroad. It is an all too common situation, because problems faced by young overseas students remain undisclosed before they are sent to a foreign culture where they must often cope alone.
Huang suggests that, for students who have not reached adulthood, leaving their home country and communicating in a language other than their mother tongue can be somewhat unbearable. Setbacks may be inevitable without any training on the psychology and characteristics of the teenagers before they head abroad.
(China.org.cn by Xu Jin, August 14, 2007)