Cary Guo (Year 13) shared his journey of coming to New Zealand at a special International Cultural Day Assembly.
Gathered here halfway through 2023, we are enjoying the new normal, post covid lockdowns and enjoying all the school activities that populate our calendar. The year 2023 has also been significant, in that it has been the year where we could once again welcome back international students to New Zealand and to our school.
Earlier this term, I had the privilege of meeting some of them. During that encounter, there was something that deeply touched me. I saw something in their eyes. It was a reflection of myself when I first arrived in New Zealand. And their eyes were full of something. It was not fear, but a sense of uncertainty and anxiety. And that is why I stand here today. To share some of my experiences during my five-year journey in New Zealand, not only to our international students but to all who are in this chapel today.
My family and I arrived in New Zealand in 2018. Back then, I was a twelve-year-old boy, completely oblivious to how to speak English. And because of this, the first few months were tough, as I didn’t understand most things people said. I was under constant stress, trying to comprehend anything my teacher and classmates were telling me. It was emotionally challenging too. I yearned to be heard and understood, but the environment had made it nearly impossible, and trust me, it is one of the worst feelings in the world. Still, I considered myself seriously lucky, for at least I had my parents by my side supporting me through those tough times. However, this is not so much the case for our international students, many of whom travel great distances to study in New Zealand.
After those first few months, my English began to improve, and I was finally heard, but not so much understood. For those around me, I was still a foreigner. I never felt truly included. That is until I came here, to St Paul’s. St Paul’s is truly a great school. It is here, for the first time since I came to New Zealand, that I made great friends, found myself and felt truly accepted.
St Paul’s is a second home to our international students so please, make them feel welcome, let them experience the hospitality that I felt, and welcome them with open arms. Don’t build walls, build bridges. Build bridges that lead to diversity, that leads to different cultures, that leads to different experiences. Try to understand them, communicate with them, and be patient. Treat them how you want to be treated, with kindness and respect and trust me, it will really mean the world to them.
This simple request is not hard, all you need is a smile, a gesture of kindness, and some simple words of encouragement, and you might have just made their day. As the acclaimed Dalai Lama once said, "Kindness and compassion are the keys to treating every individual equally, for we are all part of the same human family".