085 hi ziyi, i barely know you

i had an interesting conversation with a 16 year old today. her name is ziyi and she is a foreigner from, sichuan, china. she moved to singapore last year and she is living and studying in here alone without her parents. she is currently in secondary three and taking the triple science stream, so next year she takes her o levels.

i have never spoken to a Chinese foreigner before and today i managed to. and although it was only for thirty minutes i actually had a broader perspective of how it is like for a student like herself studying in singapore. i wish i could give her a hug, but that is totally out of the question and really weird but i wish her the best.

ziyi told me something that still speaks to me even after 7 hours. “singapore teachers and students always say ‘the workload is stressful….’ but, i am like ‘haha, oh you haven’t seen what real stress is'” that sentence really hit me like a hard pat on the back like ‘hey nic, heard that? what you went through is nothing’. she explained that back in china, everyday it is all about non-stop homework and studies. here in singapore, our curriculum requires you to fulfil CIP hours and outdoor activities et cetera, at the end of the day, it is not entirely about studies.

yet, we singaporean students complain relentlessly. studies – oh man school on monday, exams – i am so stressed, revision – this is so boring. if we were to send students to china, will we survive?

she told me she misses her parents very much, and being the only child, i am very sure they miss her too. i cannot imagine myself being separated from my parents, and live with the question on whether they would be coming to visit me or if i would be going back to visit them any time soon.

all ziyi had to do to come here was to take a series of tests and because she passed them she received the opportunity for this special programme. she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be here, but she told me that for now she aims to do well and go to a JC. i asked her whether she knew what she wanted to do (as a career). she scratched her head, then shook it: “in primary school i wanted to be a doctor…. but now i don’t know i just want to do well and see what happens. maybe i will go back to china, or get a pr here i don’t know. it is so difficult to live in singapore, it is so expensive.”

then i asked: would you send your kids to singapore to study? she actually laughed and replied me: “this is worse than your other question! i haven’t even gone to university yet. i don’t know if i would.” that was the last question i asked her and it was a pity we could not really keep in touch, i mean we barely know one another.

it was a saturday and so she didn’t know what to do so she signed up for this volunteer work to pass time. honestly, i saw her as a very sensible and independent girl that i respect so much. she has so many qualities that i lacked when i was her age. to think that majority of youths her age would be so involved with miley cyrus and the media’s influence.

ultimately, i think you may say to me: ‘don’t you know that kids in china start as young as 3 and they are already learning words, counting numbers things like that’, yes i do know that. but it was the way this girl spoke to me that taught me to be thankful that we should manage our stress and not freak out every once in a while over the most minute things and be thankful that what our schools provide is all-rounded. think twice about these foreign students if you shun them, they aren’t here to compete and they miss home so much more than we do (we live here).

i pray that it is smooth sailing journey for her, especially preparing for her o levels and doing her parents proud.

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