LU host families give non-local students more than companionship and love
Studying abroad requires courage: to leave families and friends for an unknown place is one thing, and to adopt a new way of life, to make new friends, and to take care of oneself while studying is even more difficult.
As a university with more than 400 non-local students from all over the world each year, Lingnan understands the frustration and loneliness they have to tackle, and offers a wide choice of programmes and activities to help them adapt to their new life. One of these is the Lingnan Host Family Scheme, launched in 2008 and operated by the Student Services Centre.
Each year, staff members volunteer to be host families of non-local undergraduate students, providing care and support, helping students to adjust, and enriching their learning experience. The host families encourage students to build up a stronger sense of belonging, to acquire a deeper understanding of local culture and integrate into campus life as well as Hong Kong in general.
To Wang Ziming, a Year 3 BBA in Finance student from Wuhan, her host, Prof Zhang Yue of the Department of Accountancy, brought her even more than that: “My most memorable experience is Prof Zhang celebrating my 18th birthday with me. It was the first time I had been away from home on my birthday.
“My mother came to Hong Kong that day, and Prof Zhang invited us to her home and gave us a delicious home-cooked dinner and a birthday cake. We talked the whole night through and sang happy birthday together. It was warm and loving. My mom and Prof Zhang became friends as well. I really felt at home.”
“The most important thing is to build up a relationship with the guest and members of their family and be able to chat with an open heart,” Prof Zhang says, adding that she volunteered to act as host family in order to play a part in the life of new international students at Lingnan. “The opportunity to have a host-guest relationship is very valuable.”
Host families are required to do something with their guests once or twice every term, but in practice they “deliver” more, and offer not only companionship but inspiration. Ziming says “Prof Zhang gave me much invaluable advice regarding both university and my life. She also told me about learning Cantonese and how she had adapted to the local culture, and that resonated with me and taught me a lot. She always encouraged me and persuaded me that I could do better.”
To Mun Jiayeane, a BBA student from Malaysia starting her second year at Lingnan, having a host family from her own country helped her acclimatise. “I am really glad that I joined this scheme because I got to know my host who is also a Malaysian, and I was able to adapt to the new environment more easily as I learned about Hong Kong culture and the words that Hong Kong people use frequently and other things about the city from them.”
Sharing meals with her host and other Malaysian students was what she most enjoyed, and Jiayeane adds: “Knowing that someone is always there for me in Hong Kong has put me at ease studying here at Lingnan University.”
Her fellow Malaysian guest, Lee Wen-xin of BSc (Hons) Data Science, echoes her: “My most memorable experiences were the meals with my host family, where we would eat and talk about our lives in Hong Kong. Companionship, for me, has been the most valuable takeaway from the Scheme.
“We often organised activities with fellow Malaysians at Lingnan University — outings, hiking, camping on the beach, etc.,” says Wen-xin and Jiayeane’s host, Nicholas Ooi Tyan-chyi, Programme Manager of the Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative in the Office of Service-Learning.
“They often told me about their life vision and goals, and saw me as a life coach whom they could approach whenever they had any problems. And they often came to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship activities I organised, which showed their enthusiasm and how they want to make a difference, their willingness to take risks to be better leaders.”
Nicholas helped the guests improve their CVs and job-related training skills, and got them to help out and support some of the projects organised by the Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Office of Service-Learning.
He has learned a lot from his guests and the Scheme since he joined the Scheme in 2014. “As I came to Hong Kong 10 years ago without knowing what to expect, I wish to share my experiences as a foreigner with my non-local guests. I believe that being a host family is something wonderful: it means you will influence and be influenced for the rest of your life.”
“This is the fifth time I have been a host family and I see ‘my children’ improve day by day. I am glad that we are really like a family in Hong Kong and can support each other no matter what, rain or shine.”
For more details about the Host Family Scheme, please refer to: https://www.ln.edu.hk/ssc/cross-cultural-integration/host-family/programme-details.