Jack Chen


Jack Chen's portrait
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“I never like when some Chinese hear something wrong about Chinese and they want to punch the person. I like to use the language; not use the hand.”

Jack is from the capital city of China; a big city that he says is “a little bit dirty and full of people”. He has been in New Zealand for eleven months now and loves that it is “sometimes warm and sometimes cold.” He also loves how quiet Ashburton is because “in Beijing, sometimes you can’t sleep because you can hear the cars.” Jack’s favourite part about New Zealand however is that there isn’t much home- work here compared to the amount of work he had to do at his old school in China… “even in P.E!”

Jack’s personality and attitude seem to forge his experience of life in New Zealand a lot. He is easy-going and happy. He loves the blue sky, the sun, the parks, his cats and being able to breathe in fresh air; things which I think speak maturity with which he understands his life even though he is so young. We meet him in his ESOL class at Ashburton College; a place in which he says that he feels very comfortable in because it is where he can practice his English. When he came to New Zealand eleven months ago he didn’t speak a word of English; yet here we are, sitting for an interview about very complex issues and ideas. An hour later, we have successfully covered concepts such as identity, belonging, family and his aspirations and he has done most of the talking. He even attempted to teach me how to play majong, a game which he enjoyed playing with his grandfather back in China…

China still holds an important place in his life. He doesn’t want to live there but he is now more interested in some cultural elements and would like to attempt some “typically Chinese” things that he was preivously scared of trying. He tells me that he wants to “eat some bugs, read Chinese scary books and see Chinese scary films!” When I ask him why, he explains that since he has moved to New Zealand, he has realised that he only knows very little about his country and his culture and that he would like to be able to share more about where he is from and what his culture consists of with people here. He also misses his grandparents. He would like them to be able to see that he “is a good boy and a good student as well” and that he has grown a lot.

I wanted to find out why Jack didn’t really want to live in China and the answers he gave me were very inspiring: He enjoys being able to spend more time with his mom here and he enjoys the freedom that being in New Zealand has given him. Further, he explains that living in China put a lot of pressure on him because you “in China you just need to study because the parents think that with good study you will have a good university, then a good wife and a good life.” He tells us that he doesn’t like the Chinese mentality and materialism.

Jack wants to be a doctor because; yes, he wants to have a good life, but also because he will be able “to save lots of people”. He has many dreams and many aspirations but for now, he prefers to study than to dream.