Categories China Food General

Life in China is not boring for a High School student

2 months ago my dad took me to China so he could work in his Hangzhou office and I have been attending an international school and now running the ‘family home’. My older sister Eve is currently completing her final year of high school exams (the HSC) and mum got the easy job of taking care of her 😉 It has been an incredible experience. Everything here feels different, it just depends on the degree of difference!I have so many things to talk about but let’s start with my school and home life in China – where I spend most of my time. Later I will do a post about other differences living in China.

Here is a quick video of a shopping centre precinct in Hangzhou:

I loved International School in China

I have been at Hangzhou International School for 2 months and it has flown by. From the kids to the teachers, and the environment, the experience has been extraordinary.

High school students in China start school at 7 am and finish at 6 pm (and if you are like most of the high school students in China, you will board, where it is compulsory to study until 9 pm or even 10 pm). Luckily for me, at my international school, they have standard ‘western’ school hours of 8 am to 3 pm. My hours were slightly different as I met my Chinese teacher each morning before school at 7.30am and did swim training after school until 5 pm each day.

My friends eating my homemade baked goods!

Obviously, there is no ‘standard international school’ but I think its fair to say as a general thing that teachers that travel the world to teach (at international schools) are pretty cool and not your standard teachers.

The first remarkable thing I noticed at an international school was when you walk around the cafeteria at lunch, you can easily hear more than 10 different languages being spoken at any time. Having students from all over the world means that the school cafeteria has to work very hard to make food that students of all religions can eat and all cultures will like. I found it awesome to be constantly surrounded by countless cultures and it is very difficult to be ‘the odd one out’ when everyone is so different that there is no ‘normal’!

I love Australia but over the last 2 months, I have received a ‘reality kick’ about other cultures. Australia is such a multicultural country that we really do not have a culture of our own (that probably has to do with the fact that modern Australia is only 200 years old). I now feel other countries’ cultures are much richer than I experience in Australia.

Chinese is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn and I can personally attest to its difficulty. I have been learning it for the last 2 months and my language is currently at the level of a ‘2 year old’. I’m not complaining though – I am pretty proud of myself! I am able to use Chinese in basic real-world scenarios, such as shopping, eating and changing my mind during a taxi ride. I have learnt words like:

  • turn left / right
  • I like / don’t like this
  • can I have
  • I want / don’t want this / that

…and other basic vocabulary to describe people and my birthday etc. Oh, and I had to learn how to say “I don’t want spicy!”.

The only problem is sometimes when you only say a few words in Chinese, people think I can speak fluent Chinese and a blast of Chinese words come my way. Luckily I can solve that by saying 对不起,我中文不好 which is “sorry my Chinese is not good” 🙂

Translation: Hello Friend! Can you please take a photo?

I ran the family home

Try using a washing machine when it is not in English!

Without my mum, I have to do a lot of things by myself which I am not used to. It took quite some time after each day. I would come home and be busy cleaning the apartment, washing clothes, shopping, cooking (and of course looking after my dad 😂). What makes this harder is that I do not have a lot of anything. E.g. when I am cleaning the apartment, I do not have basic cleaning products and equipment which makes even simple tasks of cleaning up after dinner many times more difficult. Then the simple task of buying cleaning products is also difficult when you can’t read the labels!

Every day in China has been an awesome culture shock. I have not stopped learning and had countless new experiences. This was just a small bit of an insight into school and home during the last two months. Stay tuned for my next post about other differences between China and Australia!

| Ruby |


Cheryl McArthur says:

Hi Ruby, sounds like you have risen to the challenge of your opportunity in China, with good humour and a resilient attitude.
Speaking Mandarin at the level of a two year old after only a couple of months is a major achievement!
I hope that you have had a chance for some family time now that Eve has successfully completed her HSC. Please congratulate her for me.

I also wanted to let you know that I have resigned from Vinnie’s. I will be continuing in a similar role, facilitating learning experiences and working with high potential students at Rosebank College in the inner West. I have changed my contact details below and look forward to hearing more of your adventures.

Best wishes,

Thank you, Ms McArthur!
Learning Mandarin was definitely quite difficult but I can probably attest my language skills to the fact I was surrounded by the language every day! Eve just finished her accelerated maths HSC so that was definitely a big weight off her shoulders – she still has a lot more to go! I’m wishing you good luck with Rosebank College and your role in the school.
| Ruby | x

[…] year brought many memorable experiences, like my sister and dad’s move to China for a few months and getting my L’s (learners licence). There were challenging times as I […]

[…] emphasize enough how much this experience has enriched my life. I had the opportunity to take my daughter Ruby with me to China, where we lived in Hangzhou and I worked from SSW Hangzhou for 3 months. It was […]

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