There and back again
Kunming is the capital and largest city of the of Yunnan Province in Southwest China, home to more than 6 million people, including Clarke Central High School senior Jiacheng “Chris” Zhao.
Chris lived in Kunming until he was 15 before moving to Pittsburgh, Pa. He then moved back to China after a year and moved earlier this year to Athens, Ga.
According to Chris, most classes in China have 60 to 70 students each. Students are allowed to take only one art or music class in their entire school careers.
“(School in) China is much more difficult. Science and math are more focused upon. (School) is really easy here,” Chris said. “I like Clarke Central so far.”
Chris lives in Athens with his mother, who is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. Chris’s father remained in China, but visits when he can.
According to Chris, English was the only foreign language option available. The class focused primarily on reading and writing, but not speaking. Although Chris speaks English well, he sometimes struggles with native English speakers’ dialects.
“It was really hard for me to understand the slang that people used, such as the term ‘What is up?’ That was difficult to learn for me. Also, some students speak too fast for me to understand and do not speak clearly,” Chris said.
While Chris has a hard time understanding some people, his teachers can also struggle.
“(His English) is remarkably good given the fact that he is not from an English-speaking country. Sometimes there is (difficulty) with Economics problems and I have a hard time understanding him. I am highly impressed with his progress,” social studies department teacher Stephen Hinson said.
People are often nervous when they move such a vast distance away from everything they know. However, rather than being nervous about coming to America for both the first and second times, Chris was excited for his new setting.
“I think that it is the opposite (of nervousness); I felt so excited when I first came to America,” Chris said.
Leaving home can be difficult after all of the connections that one has made with people. While he moved twice to different places in America, Chris was not extremely sad about losing friends.
“I don’t think its hard (to leave friends) because friends are everywhere,” Zhao said.
Chris was able to adapt quickly to Athens and the way CCHS operates when he first arrived, according to CCHS senior DeAndre Harper.
“He caught on very fast. You know it took me a little while for me to catch on around here and he caught on really quick,” Harper said.
Despite the many differences between Kunming, China and Athens, Ga., Chris has found both friends and academic success at CCHS.
“He is a delight to teach and I could use 30 of him,” English department teacher Jacob Reuse said.
CCHS students like Harper thought that he would be too different to relate to, but discovered similarities that transcend cultural differences.
“I found out that we have more in common than I thought that we would. We have the same tastes in music and he is really laid back,” Harper said.