What’s it like for a young German to live 7,000 kilometres away from home? In China for instance? This is what the schoolboy Christian Peckart discovered during a year in a province about which other Chinese say: “The Cantonese eat everything that has four legs except for tables and chairs, everything that flies except airplanes and everything that swims except submarines.” So that’s what Christian did too -- he got out his chopsticks and got stuck in.
The Cantonese have the reputation of eating everything but tables, planes and submarines
After a year in China, Christian Peckart now speaks fluent Chinese. He wanted to get away for a year and he didn’t mind where to. In the end, he landed up in southern China, in the city of Guangzhou.
He never regretted it, he says, and was never homesick. He got “completely stuck into China and had to study a lot.” When he had time, he “went out with friends and didn’t think much about Germany.“
Christian went to an international school during his year abroad. Lessons began at 7 in the morning and ended at 9 in the evening. Hard to imagine, he laughs, but just about doable.
Studying for the future
Since coming back to Germany, he has kept up his Chinese at school and at the University of Bonn. He’s very keen to study.
One reason is that he is worried about the future -- a worry that he shares with many others in China.
“More people end up with a high school certificate than in Germany so competition is much higher. And if high school students don’t make a huge effort during a few years, they are less likely to get into a good university.”
Floating between two worlds
Christian regards himself as a facilitator between two worlds and now helps Chinese exchange students in Germany.
Their problems are very different from those of Western exchange students in China, he explains: “I basically had no free time and they have so much free time. They’re not used to keeping themselves busy at all. So they need help. I tell them to find a football club or to play with their host family or things like that.“
But not everyone can adapt as easily as Christian to a new environment. Today, Christian’s room looks like a small museum. A huge map of China adorns the wall and there are a ma-jong game, coloured peanuts, coins, photos, a patchwork blanket and he even listens to Chinese pop music.
Christian says that the exchange year will always be part of him and hopes in future to go back to China to study or maybe even to work.