Families that host Novogratz Bridge Year students open their homes and lives to participants year after year. In this series, past participants take an opportunity to reconnect with their homestay families and reflect on the mutual learning and growth that occurs through hosting.
Recently, Ryan Sung ’22 sat down with the Yang family in Kunming, China, to ask about their hosting experience. The Yangs began hosting Bridge Year participants in 2017.
Ryan: Nihao, famulei! Thanks for joining me today. Just so readers will have a chance to get to know you, I wanted to do a brief introduction. Here with me today is Gege (“older brother” in Chinese) – a scholarly, hard-working, movie aficionado ever-bent on obtaining the latest tech gadgets; Jiejie (“older sister”) – a skilled guzheng teacher with an amazing sense of humor and incredible cooking skills; and their daughter, Nuan Nuan. Joining the Yangs on our Wechat call are also the family’s two cats, Mandarin and Tequila.
Gege: Hi Ryan. It’s great to see you.
Ryan: So, first question. What drew you to hosting Bridge Year students in your home and how do you think hosting has contributed to your family?
Gege: We wanted to understand the outside world through the lens of some of the best students in the world. We felt that we could better comprehend some of the cultural differences between China and other countries through hosting students. Through our interactions with the students we’ve hosted, we’ve been able to see many of the world’s current events through a different lens. Also, you guys are Princeton students! The concept of meeting you and talking about a range of topics definitely piqued our interest.
Ryan: What do you feel Bridge Year students gain from staying in a homestay family?
Jieje: I feel that many Americans haven’t been to China before and don’t have an objective understanding of the country. By coming to not only visit but live here, students can see many of the changes and development China has undergone, which also helps to build a clearer image for others abroad when the students return and tell their stories
Gege: I hope that after their year with us, students will get to see that the differences they might perceive between our country and theirs aren’t too great after all.
Ryan: Do you have any favorite Bridge Year hosting memories?
Jieje: Our favorite memory is actually after your Bridge Year in 2019, when you came on a trip with us to the Ailao Mountains. I remember we went on the roof of our hotel after a nice hotpot dinner, and our host brewed some buckwheat tea for us to drink. We spotted constellations together under the beautiful Yunnan sky. When you came to our home, Gege often went out of town on business trips for work. I often felt alone and stressed. Once you came, you helped me do so many things around the house and took care of Nuan Nuan as a great older brother would. I felt so thankful that you came when you did, and I felt life slowly got better. We wanted to take you on a trip out of town to thank you for all you had done but never had the chance during Bridge Year. When you returned to Kunming in the summer of 2019, we were finally together, as a family of four. It was a truly happy moment.
Ryan: Thank you, Jieje. I recall that on the last few days of my Bridge Year, I returned the key to the house that I had used for the past nine months. A few days later, you and Gege surprised me with a gift: a small white box holidng the same key. “Keep it for the next time you come,” you said. “Our home will always be your home.” While I could say it many more times, thank you for hosting me!! Though I traveled far and wide and encountered many new cultures throughout China, my time in your home was the best part of my Bridge Year.