I have never had my entire future riding on how well I’ve done on a single exam.

Today 9.33 million high school students in China were much less fortunate than I.

These students have been participating in the college entrance exam for the past two days. This exam, “Gao Kao”, (which I frequently confuse with the word “Dao Gao”, meaning “prayer” in Chinese. I never fail to get funny looks when I ask a student if they “took the prayer” – – Hey, at least I’m trying here!) is the culmination of all their incredibly intense middle/high school work. This test is the one, yes ONE chance they have to gain entrance into the university they want. It’s an awful lot of pressure on an 18 year old, but this culture is full of many unnecessary pressures and expectations, so this is just a mark off the list.

I actually had the chance to see an entire class of students’ stressed/relieved/excited/depressed faces immediately following the ending of this big exam.

I went out with the marketing department to help them advertise for our English school. As my team leader, Angela said, I was their “secret weapon”. Of course she was right. I was the only foreigner, which caused the usual stirring of stares and whispers of “lao wai! (White person!)” We arrived at the gates of Quanzhou’s No. 7 middle school about an hour before the students would be let out. There were already at least three of our competitors and many other random companies there, all with flyers in hand. Since this is such an important day, most students’ parents were waiting for them at the gate as well. A Chinese teacher and myself handed out a flyer to every parent. People weren’t too rude, only because they wanted to see what the girl with blonde hair had to say, but this experience further confirms my dislike for sales.

We moved closer to the gate once the school bell rang, along with the other 200 people waiting. As the gate opened and the students flooded out, it was my responsibility to yell “Hello, ni hao!” as loud as I could to grab their attention. As I handed out flyers I just felt bad, it was as if the students were famous and we were the paparazzi; 50 or so people trying to cram a flyer in their face. All the students looked incredibly overwhelmed.

Police were there for crowd control, although they didn’t seem to make much of a difference. This whole event was absolutely insane. But, as I am learning about all the crazy things here, there is no explanation for them…all you can simply say is, this is China.


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