Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Study abroad in the Netherlands

One of my nephew living in Vlissingen came to visit during the weekend. He has been in the Netherlands for almost four years. We had contacted on phone after we came here. But we have been hesitating in having guests at home since our shipment was kept delaying and we don't even have an extra quilt for the guest. He wanted to come since he was living with a friend without paying now and didn't want to show up in the weekend when the landlord might come. He offered to bring his sleeping bag. Then there is no problem. We have enough space.

Remember the time when we talked on phone, he was so surprised to know that our apartment rent was double the amount that he could have guessed. He himself once lived in a 8 square meter room with around 100 euro rent per month. When he came and see it, it is the size like which four of them share. It is an understandable price then. We rent only an one bedroom one living room apartment. Some part of my heart feels sour when comparing with this young boy. When I first told him that we won't have proper setting for him to sleep on if he came to visit now, he told me that he had never slept on a proper bed in the previous four years in the Netherlands.

He is not from a rich family who can easily support his study here. His parents, my cousin sister and her husband were ordinary working class living in the coastal city of Qingdao. They used up all their savings for their only son after his high school education. They were not confident that he could enter a good college in China. They thought other ordinary colleges were a waste of time. I was totally against the idea of sending an 18 years old abroad to study, a boy never left his parents. His parents were determined as well as he himself. He only went back once one year after he came to the Netherlands. He said that trip he was treated with so much good food and gained more than 30 jin.

I learned quite a lot of things from him, during his visit here. Almost four years experiences in the Netherlands is still a lot more than my three months' experiences. He told me which TV channel has interesting programs. Which grocery store has cheaper groceries and which has better meat. Which place is famous and worth visiting. What is the most amazing part, is I learned a lot of cooking tips from him. He has been working in restaurants to make some money to lower his parents burden. This past summer he went to work in a Chinese restaurant in a northern city and made 1300 euro for one and a half month.

If staying with his parents, I would never imagine he could have worked in a restaurant, washing dishes, and later helping in cooking. I somehow feel Chinese is such a group of people that perform the best in harsh and difficult situations. It reminds me of another nephew of mine, half year older than this nephew. He just found a job in China working as a manager in a restaurant. He will never think of working in the kitchen. Being a college graduate in China, there is still some kind of proud, either from your parents or yourself, will stop you from certain kind of jobs. But here in another country, Chinese restaurants seem to have become the life boats of many Chinese students who would work to make some money. Exploitation is thus common. His first job only paid two euro per hour. True, if you don't want, they can always find someone who would do.

Parents might feel sorry that their kid has to clean dishes in restaurants. It is less embarrassing maybe because many of them are doing the same thing. What my cousin sister feels the most comforting is, their son now knows what he wants in the future. He also told me that from the third year here, he started enjoying so much of his classes. He would like to spend as much as possible time in the school, and found many things interesting. He has learned how to live individually, and more important, think individually. He has made his plan to go on a master program after graduating from here. I am really happy for him, and his parents. Luckily, their investment in their son pays them back not only a degree, but also a grown-up son that they might not expect at the beginning. He told me, some of his friends there do not need to worry about money and do not study hard either. It is again proved to be true, a harsher life at younger age might be better for growing up.

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