International Student Leader Address To Senior Assembly

By Louie Cheng | Posted: Thursday August 17, 2017

OBHS International Student Leader Louie Cheng addressed senior assembly this week as part of International Languages' Week.

Good morning everyone. My name is Louie Cheng, I come from Hong Kong and I am the International Student Leader for this year. 

Today I want to talk about my experience at Otago Boys’ and give some advice to everyone in order for us to make more friends from around the world.

I came to Dunedin in July 2015, starting school in term 3. This meant I had just finished school in Hong Kong and that I missed out on the summer holiday there. Arriving here with no holiday and to such cold weather really annoyed me.

After I started school, I discovered some differences between school in my country and school here in New Zealand. On the academic side, Hong Kong schools have a lot of homework everyday. Students usually take till midnight to finish their homework. But here, there is much less homework and sometimes even none. Here students have much more time to play sports and relax.

Furthermore, the examination system is different. In Hong Kong, at the end of Year 12, we only have one external exam. But, the result of this one exam determines if you can go to university or not. This creates a lot of pressure for Hong Kong students and, over the past few years, there are quite a few students who have committed suicide because they couldn't take the pressure. As students here in New Zealand you should be glad that you have 3 years and both internal and external assessments to gain credits. It is much easier than in Asian countries, but this is no excuse not to work hard. 

At Otago Boys', I recognise some issues for international students. Most students will be nice to internationals because they want to know more about foreign countries, and about other cultures, food and activities. But many international students are shy and afraid to speak English. So they do not have many kiwi friends here. I will mention some tips soon to help you all.

Last week, school prefect, Samuel Jones talked about regret and I found it very inspirational. I regret that I didn't join as many activities that I could have tried in my first year. I regret staying in the hostel a lot of the time, watching youtube on my phone instead of meeting new people. This year I have done things a lot differently.

So there are some tips for you guys. Let me talk to the international students first. The most important rule, don’t be shy. Join in heaps of activities. Talk to different people. Don’t be afraid to fail. You will learn a lot from failure. In Hong Kong, we can only join one school team or group, so I joined the orchestra. This year at Otago Boys’, I have joined in with the school jazz band, chamber music, basketball, volleyball, badminton and softball. Some of these activities were completely new to me. I think everyone, not just internationals, should try as many activities as they can. They can really make your life better and happier. 

Secondly, NZ people may treat us differently to what we are used to back home. Here when you meet someone or see an old friend, you may shake hands or hug. Internationals may not understand this body language because we do not do this in our cultures. When we meet we just greet verbally and talk. If kiwi’s use such gestures with you remember they are just being friendly. If you don’t feel good when they do it, just tell them and I believe that they will listen.

Last tip for international students, respect others. Talking in your own language is fine as I do it too, but do not speak your own language when you are talking to NZ students because they don’t understand. They might think you are insulting them. Respect others and speak English. I believe that they will forgive you if you try but still say something wrong.

For other students, I encourage you to try to talk to internationals. Most of them are just shy and afraid to speak in English. Be careful about making lots of jokes with them. Humour can take a long time to fully understand in another culture. We might not understand and think you are actually saying something bad about us.

Last but not least, internationals are here to learn English, but they should be able to have a little of their own time to speak their own language. Often we know many languages. Like me, I know Cantonese, Mandarin, English and I understand Japanese. It’s a hard thing for us to learn another language and communicate all day with you guys and teachers. Sometimes, it’s really good just to be able to talk to friends who share our first language. I hope you guys can understand this, and don’t always insist we speak in English for those times when we are just talking to our friends.

So to finish, I encourage all students, especially internationals, try things that you have never tried before. Learn and take gains from new experiences. Get to know more new people from other countries. International student friends can extend your social network, and, who knows, you might end up with a free place to sleep if you travel overseas!

Thank you.