Jóhanna Magnusardóttir with her homestay family

April 20, 2014, by Student blogger

My homestay in Tianjin, China

By Jóhanna Magnusardóttir from the Faroe Islands, studying BA International Studies and Chinese.

Moving abroad to study is always a big step. Moving to China to take your whole degree is a full-on man-on-the-moon giant leap – or so I thought before actually putting on my figurative space suit and starting my three-year- educational journey. Coming from a very tiny place in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean – my population is more or less the size of a small street in China – and moving to this huge country was both culturally and in range the furthest I could get from home while still staying on planet Earth. And I was wondering about these  Chinese aliens…Was hard work and economic growth their only interest and value?

Jóhanna Magnusardóttir's homestay family

During the Chinese New Year, which in many ways is the Chinese equivalent of our Christmas, I had the opportunity to stay and celebrate these days with a Chinese family for a whole week. At this time I was one semester into my studies, had some Chinese friends and could speak what I like to call “survival-Chinese”. By now I had also learnt that the Chinese do have other values than hard work and economic growth. But I was surprised to learn the universality of family values and how equal these Chinese values actually were to those of my own family in the high north.

I stayed with the loveliest family. Their daughter was also studying at my university and she was the only English-speaking in the family. The homestay was arranged by the university and I had only met her once beforehand.

What surprised me the most, however, was how similar her family was to my own. During this week it often felt like a flashback to when I was a teenager and my own grandmother was still alive. This Chinese grandmother reminded me so much of her. Her cooking was just as amazing – Chinese cuisine, though, – and due to the generation gap things she did in a very loving way annoyed me just as much as they did with my own grandmother.

This week made me realise that even if my Chinese friend’s grandmother grew up and lived in Mao’s China and during the Cultural Revolution whilst my own grandmother was born and lived her whole life in a very peaceful and distant place in the world, they were not all that different. My homestay made me realise that even if we have very different backgrounds, we are all humans and from the very same planet.

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