Last month I got to spend time with Bowen, one of Prep’s students, to see how it’s going with his host family, the Chins. Last night I had the opportunity to “meet” Bowen’s parents virtually via ZOOM conferencing (and Heidi, our amazing interpreter). I had that moment during our time together when I thought to myself, “I could have picked these two out as Bowen’s parents right away if they were in a sea of people.”
Bowen is always joyful, positive, thoughtful and has a smile that accompanies him wherever he goes. When I spoke to his parents, they were the same. I loved watching them on my laptop screen as they’d interact and look at each other and smile as they spoke about their only son, Bowen.
My goal for my time with them was to hear what it’s like for parents who decide to send their child to the United States to study during their high school years. It was a valuable time that I’d like to share to encourage our host families here in the United States, and also to encourage future families that might be considering sending their child to the here to study.
I learned that Bowen grew up living in an apartment in China. His parents shared that he’d often walk all around his town into different shops and restaurants and engage everyone he knew. If too much time would elapse between seeing his friends, they’d all inquire about where he’d been. He was a people person from the time he was very young, he loved people and they loved him too!
Bowen’s parents noticed his outgoing and adventurous personality and acknowledged it as a very special gift that they wanted to foster. For this reason, Bowen’s father began to wonder if studying in China would stifle who he was. His fear was that the typical Chinese culture would encourage Bowen to be more studious and focus on academics only. His father knew he wanted Bowen to be a strong student, but additionally, he wanted Bowen to flourish as a whole person in an open environment where he could be who he was made to be.
Bowen and his mom were not on board with this plan and path for his education, but after Bowen attended a camp during the summer of his 8th grade year, he knew he was more open to move to the United States for the remainder of his schooling. After that, mom came on board; knowing the decision was not forced on Bowen and his excitement was all the affirmation she needed.
When I asked how they’ve seen Bowen change since studying in the United States the past four years, they said he is still the same in many ways. He is still happy and loving, but he is more open to new ideas and discussions about topics.
Dad shared a metaphor for his son with me. He said that because Bowen is having this experience it has broadened his perspective on life. He said it’s like Bowen has journeyed to the top of a mountain to look around and have views that others cannot see or experience. He attributes Bowen’s growth into a whole person (spiritually, academically, emotionally and relationally) to his ascent to the mountaintop.
They shared that they feel like they’ve grown in their perspectives as well through this experience. Mom said that Bowen often comes home and shares with them how his different host parents and families interact and function as a family. Bowen’s parents said they are very thankful that Bowen has not only grown, but he’s helping them grow when he returns home during the summers and breaks.
Our family at Premier Education is thankful for parents and families like Bowens. We’re honored that they would allow us to give students “views from the mountaintops.”