07 Sep, 2018
10 : 00
Along with 200 other new students starting Yew Chung International School of Beijing this year, we welcome Elise Friia in Year 3, and her mum and dad Carey and Matt. Arriving in Beijing just one month ago, we discuss the highs and lows of relocating overseas, and what they’re most enjoying about Beijing so far.
Please introduce yourselves
Carey: We are the Friia family. Elise is 7 years old and just starting in Year 3. We are from the United States – and have lived as a family in North Carolina and also Colorado. Matt is a strength and conditioning coach. Previously he worked with the NBA basketball league but this summer we all moved to Beijing where Matt is working as the strength coach for the Beijing Ducks.
How long have you been in Beijing?
Matt: I have been in Beijing for two months but Carey and Elise arrived in August and have been here just three or four weeks.
What do you most enjoy about living in Beijing?
Matt: There’s always something to do here, it’s such a busy place. We have never experienced living in a city of this scale before so it’s all pretty exciting and we certainly haven’t had any time to be bored! The food has been a highlight – we love the jianbings that the lady round the corner from our house makes! I also enjoy not needing a car, because the subway is so good and easy to use.
Carey: In comparison to our previous homes in the States, there is just so much history here. The hutongs are incredible and we’ve really enjoyed learning about the architecture, local traditions and beliefs, and visiting the amazing Great Wall. The way Beijing combines this incredible history and culture with modernity feels really unique.
What do you miss about home?
Carey: Of course our family. They’re all in the USA. We’re still struggling a bit with grocery shopping and knowing where to get the things that we need. I think it will get easier in time, but as we are so new we sometimes just feel a bit stuck!
Matt: Where we were living before, we could get into the car and drive to the beach or lake and do a day of water sports. I don’t think this is going to be possible in Beijing but I’ve heard that there are some good daytrips to get out of the city so we’ll give them a go.
Is there anything that has stood out or surprised you since moving here?
Carey: The people here are so kind and helpful. Several times now a local person has gone out of their way to help us. They will always stop to make sure you’re ok if you look a bit stuck, and help translate if they speak English too – that is just not the same in the States.
Matt: I think when you first arrive you feel like the pushing on the subway and the lack of queuing is a bit rude. But really it’s the opposite – Chinese people are very considerate and caring, especially for kids and the elderly. When we get on the subway people always give their seat up for Elise.
How did you learn about YCIS Beijing?
Carey: I did a lot of research online and YCIS Beijing kept popping up in my searches. Getting Elise into a good school was our absolute priority so we needed to have that all sorted before we came.
Why did you choose YCIS Beijing?
Matt: When we got in touch with the Admissions team they were incredibly responsive. They answered all our questions very quickly and made us feel really welcome. That made such a big difference.
I took a tour of the school when I arrived in Beijing and was really impressed by the open plan Learning Communities. It also seemed like a nice size – not as gigantic as some of the other schools here which feel a bit anonymous.
Carey: Perhaps our favourite thing about the school is the music, arts and drama. The violin programme is unique and the arts seems to play a big part in this curriculum. That is a very important to us.
What are you hoping to take with you from this experience of living abroad?
Carey: We really want Elise to develop an understanding of other cultures and ways of life. I grew up in a small town in Wyoming with no diversity at all and I am very glad that we are able to give Elise the opportunity to experience something different while she’s still young. I think living here will be really interesting for her and help her grow into a well-rounded and open-minded person.
We have so far encouraged her a lot with learning Spanish, including placing her on a Spanish immersion course back home. If she can also develop Chinese I think it will be a real gift for life.
(To Elise) What are you enjoying about school the most?
I have made lots of friends already, everyone is very friendly! I also like learning Chinese. I find it interesting.
(To Elise) Is there anything you’re missing from home?
I miss my dog Max. He’s living in Wyoming with my Grandma who has another dog so I know that he is OK and she is very kind to him. But Max and I would play together all the time. I really hope we can bring him over to Beijing one day.
(To Elise) What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a teacher! I’d like to teach art. It’s one of my favourite subjects.