The Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools are blessed with ten exchange students from China, nine of whom attend St. Philip High School.
“Almost every school has international students, but because our school is so small, our students really get to know them,” Student Services Director Michelle Fuller said.
Their stories are unique, each one a gift to our small mid-Michigan school. Today we want to feature two of our Chinese students who walked similar, yet different pathways to BCACS.
Junior Yucheng Huo calls Harbin in the province of Heilongjiang home, but for the last three years, he has lived with his aunt and grandmother in Battle Creek. His parents wanted a more well-rounded education for Yucheng.
“They only focus on grades [in China],” Yucheng said. “Grades determine which college you go to. Nothing else. My parents thought if I went to the United States it would be less stressful and I could spend more time on extra-curricular activities.”
English lessons started in elementary school for Yucheng, but the emphasis was on writing and speaking rather than listening.
“When I first came here, I didn’t understand every word,” Yucheng said. “As I listened, I gradually understood what people were saying.”
Learning new concepts in another language is a challenge, but Yucheng’s grades prove he has met this challenge. He is an alpha honor roll student at St. Philip, attends the Battle Creek Math and Science Center, and is a National Honor Society member.
Yucheng’s favorite subject is Computer Science, which is the career path he wants to pursue. His most challenging subject is English literature.
“I take the honors class, and I have to challenge myself,” Yucheng said.
A three-year junior varsity basketball player, Yucheng earned MVP honors this season. Yucheng hopes to join the varsity team his senior year, which is difficult given MSHAA rules for international students.
Yucheng is a founding member of the STP Robotics team, where his prior experience with robotics and programming came in handy.
“In the beginning, I was the guy doing all different aspects,” Yucheng said. “Now I’m the programming guy.”
Summer visits home and the social media app “QQ” keeps Yucheng in touch with friends from China. He misses them, but he doesn’t have a chance to miss the food.
“My aunt can make everything from China,” Yucheng said.
In fact, during the last Chinese New Year, Yucheng and his aunt hosted a party for all the St. Philip Chinese exchange students.
Yucheng has developed a taste for “medium rare” steak and electronic dance music while living in the States. He has also developed an appreciation for the small school environment at St. Philip.
“We all know each other,” Yucheng said. “It’s like a family.”
Quian (George) Ong
Quian Ong is better known as George.
What’s in a name?
“My mom picked George for me when I was in kindergarten because it was the name of many U.S. presidents and she has high expectations for me,” George said.
George came to the States from the port city of Delian in Liaoning Province, near Beijing.
“My goal is to get myself into a pretty prestigious college,” George said. “I want to use my high school years very wisely to achieve that goal.”
He spent his sophomore year in Massachusetts, his junior year in California, and his senior year in Michigan.
Most of George’s travel is self-motivated, for this soft-spoken, young man has a deep desire to experience different cultures. During summer breaks, he travels abroad, often alone. He affords it by buying food from the local grocery stores and staying in hostels or Air BnBs.
“I love to explore, be more independent, and handle tough situations in the real world,” George said.
His favorite spot in the States is the “stunningly beautiful” Yosemite National Park and his favorite spot in the world is Norway. Still, there is no place like home.
“[In Delian], we have a mild temperature, and we are known for our seafood and our mountains and sea,” George said.
George misses the coffee shops, bookstores, and theaters there, as well as “my grandma, my dog, and my chinchilla.”
He has some advice for his American friends should they chose to China.
“Be mindful of the language because a majority of people only know Chinese,” George said. “I recommend for them to explore our true Chinese culture, which is pretty deep and profound.”
An alpha honor roll student known for his responsibility, George has spent his time wisely at St. Philip, although he wishes he could have spent more time here.
“I live in Portage, and my host mom has to pick me up every day at four, so I don’t have time to join a team here,” George said. “I am so sad.”
He was able to join the Book Club at St. Philip, which is offered during school hours.
“My favorite writers are Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky,” George said.
British Literature is his favorite subject as well as anything that involves writing.
“My dream is to be a journalist,” George said. “I want to connect myself to this mass media.”
As graduation draws near, George has yet to make a final decision on where his next destination will be, but he knows this.
“I think God has a plan for me,” George said.
BCACS is looking for host families for next year’s International students. It is an opportunity to learn more about our brothers and sisters around the globe, and it is a chance to help our visitors have a complete American high school experience by enabling them to engage in after-school programs. If you are interested, contact Cathy Erskine at 269-963-1161.