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The PC Blog


Exchange Student Experiences-- Part 1

March 05, 2019
By Jiawei Jackie Zhao ‘20

There are quite a few exchange students at Peninsula Catholic High School thanks to its thriving international program. These students come from many different countries and have different cultures and values, and sometimes it is hard to adapt to the new lifestyle. As one of the foreign exchange students here at PC, it’s a privilege for me to talk about some of the things I experienced when I moved here.  

First and foremost, one of the biggest challenges that international students face is how to adjust to the differences between American society and those in our home countries. Schools in my home country of China often have 50 or more students per classroom, which can make students feel very isolated.  At first it was hard for me to adjust to the more connected and friendly atmosphere here, but now I love it. Another big difference is our ability to express ourselves freely here without worrying about traditional barriers that some cultures may have. In China our schooling is so focused on the Gao Kao that there is no time in the day for self expression.   The Gao Kao is a test that determines our college future, and if you don’t do well you might not get into any college.  Basically, it is ONE TEST that determines your entire future.  This creates a great deal of stress.  In the US however, we have several avenues to college and one of the best things is that teachers here focus on developing students rather than just high test scores.  Our teachers help us develop our own ideas and to think critically.  We are asked about our opinions, and this helps us grow in different ways making us more prepared for our future in ways beyond academics.  
Speaking of academics, some high schools in other countries may be more strenuous than American high schools; most of them focus solely on academics. However, studying in the United States actually makes it possible for foreign students to discover their interests and hobbies through extracurricular activities, while also improving our academic skills. From countless feedback from our international friends, many of them were able to discover interests or things they are passionate about from this very open minded society. Here at Peninsula Catholic, for example, we are able express our unique ideas and opinions to other students both in and out of the classroom. 
Overall, there are many differences between our homeland and the U.S, but I have found that it’s quite possible for us to overcome obstacles by understanding those differences, and make lives for ourselves here.

Jackie Zhao ’20 came to PC as a freshman and is a school ambassador, tour guide, and a member of the cross country and tennis teams. He hopes to attend UCLA after graduation.
He is from Foshan, Guangdong, China.