The foreign exchange student.

Pants By Pants, 17th Jun 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

A short story in which I was assigned to write for my English class. Marked at an A5 level, the purpose of this story was to demonstrate social stereotyping in modern day society. This story is spoken from the perspective of a student in a new school having moved to a different country; however the nationality of the student is revealed only at the end of the story.

The foreign exchange student.

The foreign exchange student.

Exam day. I’m surrounded by nervous and unsteady students, eyes fixed upon me with curiosity. This would be my first and apparently crucial exam at my new school in a new country, being a foreign exchange student. My parents have extremely high expectations of me, just like they always have, but even more so now that we’ve moved here; who knows what they’ll do if I do poorly in this exam? My teacher, though barely having known me, expects highly of me as well; perhaps because I may seem like an outsider; perhaps because she may share a sense of prejudice towards me and has already made her own personal assumptions about me? Fellow student’s witness this applied pressure and maybe they also share my teacher’s prejudicial sense, or perhaps they may just assume that I’ll do well based on my teacher’s applied pressure and the impact it takes on me; either way, it is clear that they resent my presence. They stare at me with interest, but speak no words. I am trapped in a world of pressure and loneliness, all because of my father and his job in this morbid country; our family relying on him heavily as our source of income. I am stuck here for three years; moving here was easy as my father’s company paid for all costs regarding transportation and accommodation, however making the transition seems to be the difficult task at this point. The students, the teachers; they treat me as if I’m an outcast; and in all fairness, I am an outcast. I don’t belong in this country or this place, this is not my territory and I do not feel comfortable here; nor do I fit in.

I have not made one friend - not one friendly face at this point. You see movies where a kid moves to another school and usually meets a small group of friends, even if they aren’t the most popular group of kids; but life here is nothing like that, it is as if you are transparent, though still subject to aspects of surrounding pressure. Day after day, sadness grows deeper as I miss my friends from my old school, I don’t even know how they feel without me as I now no longer have any communication with them; I miss my old routine. I could handle my parent’s pressure back then because I would rely on my friends to make me feel better, and they would pull through every time. Where does all this pressure come from though? My father often refers to his own parents and how he was raised; with his parents both being first generation immigrants, he explains that they claimed to have no choice but to make sure their bloodline carried on as hard working citizens. In order to ensure this, he also explained that he had promised to his parents that he would impose obedience and diligence in his children. After having moved here, it is almost as if my parents feel the need for our family to prove ourselves; could it be that they feel they need prove themselves through me? After all, it would explain the sudden application of pressure.

My father drove me to school today, aware of the upcoming exam; the only time he’s driven me to school during the time we’ve been here. “Don’t let me see anything less than a high achievement for this exam, son,” he said, “I’m not paying all this money for you to just waste and just settle at being average, you are here to set an example”. He spoke no words of support or encouragement as I left the car; it was almost as if he was threatening me to do well. I had not prepared well for this test, and was not expecting to do well; and from this, felt my heart sink as I left the car having responded “yes of course Dad, you count on it” to my father. My mother always seems to follow my father’s lead; if he expresses an opinion, it is almost as if she feels compelled to agree. She has no sense of freedom in her life it seems, she must consult my father and ask for permission before leaving his presence in public for instance. Part of me feels sorry for her, but part of me also does not; how could she be so foolish as to starting a family with a man so demanding and so selfish? I feel her apparent pain and she’s aware of it, but we dare not speak of the feelings in which we both conceal. She can see that I am lonely and isolated in this country, but she continues to follow my father’s lead and supports the pressure in which he applies on a daily basis.

Three minutes until the exam commences, my pen in hand and I am shaking as I fear the potential outcome of my results. What can my father take away from me that I haven’t already lost anyway? My happiness is gone; the worst he could do would be to keep me here in this country for a longer period of time. It’s interesting how a change of environment can influence people. I try to reassure myself that he may be happy with an average result, or perhaps his expression of high expectations was just a way of showing support; but I still fear possibility. If there’s one thing I’ve picked up during the time I’ve been in this country - I owe it to my family and my culture to do well, not just myself. One minute left. Students around me have broken visual contact and are now fixated on their own exam papers. This exam is based on literacy skills; our task is to express our knowledge by responding to a statement regarding racial stereotypes, in particular, Asian stereotypes. “You may now begin your exam,” announces my teacher. I open my exam paper and the statement reads:

“Asian students often encounter pressure from their parents as well as their teachers and peers; as a result, they outperform their peers of different nationalities intellectually.”

I look around and see the class of entirely Asian students smirking, and some without hesitation, immediately begin to write with extreme concentration as if they had already seen the statement prior to the exam and had prepared a response. I think carefully about this stereotype, and with refusal to respond to the statement as instructed, I begin to write my own personal response. It begins:

“I am an Australian student and the son of two English parents, currently living in Japan. I face these conditions on a daily basis now, as well as the subsequent conditions in which this stereotype entails. Why does this stereotype only apply to Asian students and not to me?”...

The end.


Experiences, First-Person, Schooling, Stereotypes

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author avatar Pants
Blah I like pants.

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