Watkinson School: Making Friends For Life

July 14, 2023

A Reflection by Maricele Riemann on Her Travels To China with APEX International

After traveling almost 24 hours, our small group of American travelers, sponsored by APEX International, arrived in Guangzhou, China. At the airport, I was excited, but also increasingly anxious about my ability to work with families and meet students in this new country. As we stepped out from the baggage claim area and into arrivals, a woman ran over to greet our group, introduced herself as Stella, and welcomed me to China with a warm hug and enthusiastic smile.

Stella is part of APEX International’s student recruitment team in China. Over the next ten days, I would get to know other members of the team, like Elva, Wendy, and Jannie. Initially I wondered who they were and what they did, and I quickly came to realize they are the backbone of the organization. They are responsible for everything APEX does in China. I mean EVERYTHING. In each of the four cities I visited, an APEX team member greeted me. They managed the logistics of my trip and organized everything from hotels and sightseeing to visits with educational agencies and my hefty student interview schedule.

Most importantly, Stella, Elva, Wendy, and Jannie were my voice when I needed them to be. They not only communicated with hotel and restaurant staff for me, but they also acted as translators during presentations I made. They spoke to prospective families about Watkinson and fielded their questions. I was impressed by how proficient they were in English and grateful for their patience and gentle laughter as they taught (and retaught) me Chinese words which would go over well with the crowd. In fact, Elva taught me “péngyǒu,” which means friend. Every time I said it, I would see smiling faces and head-nodding in the audience. It put everyone at ease, and – Chinese or American – we understood each other. I could feel the differences in language, experience, and culture growing smaller and smaller.

Stella, Elva, Wendy, and Jannie introduced me to China, its welcoming people, delicious food, ancient sights, and beautiful culture. I can’t imagine what the trip would have been like without them. I truly feel as though we are “péngyǒu” and friends for life. I look forward to the day they visit the United States and hope to show them the same hospitality they showed me. Xièxiè to APEX International’s team for a life-changing trip to China!

Watkinson is excited to have new students from China joining our school community in the fall. If you have space in your home and in your life for an international student, please consider becoming a host family for a student from China. It will change your life!

Watkinson School Article Reference: July 13, 2023