Leaving behind the life you know is always hard. Picking up and moving, leaving your friends and home is a hurdle that’s difficult for anyone to jump over. But imagine doing it when you are ten years old, and imagine are headed across the globe to the opposite hemisphere.
Sophomore Kaylina McKelvey did just that.
“On Christmas day, my brothers and I woke up and went down the stairs to open presents and there were no presents there,” McKelvey said. “There was just a note from my mom and dad that said ‘pack up your bags, we’re moving to China.’”
Her father, who works in the retail and technology industries, had been traveling back in froth from China and their home in Connecticut for some time.
“Right before Christmas that year, my mom sat me and my brothers down and was like ‘I never see your father anymore,’” McKelvey said.
Since she was a stay-at-home mom, there was nothing holding back the McKelvey family from making the move so they could all be together.
They took the plunge and relocated to Guanghou, in southern China — a big city that’s still growing.
Her father owns factories in the city where they make denim and other clothing. At first, McKelvey admits she didn’t know what she was going to think of the country.
“I visited Morocco once before and when I found out about our move to China, I was so scared I was going to live in a village like the ones there,” McKelvey said. “But, it’s nothing like that.”
After eight years living there, McKelvey fell in love with the country and wants to live there permanently. While there, she found a few differences between new home and her old, especially when it came to socioeconomics.
“I’m not saying America is a dying country but the economy in China is just starting,” she said, “As a foreigner you automatically have somewhat of a bump in the class system.”
When she first moved there, McKelvey recalls everyone being in awe of the “all-American girl” that she was.
She described the situation as her being a black sheep in a pool of white sheep simply saying that as a foreigner, “you’re different.”
“People would come up to me and they would start feeling my hair and looking in my eyes. They were infatuated with my blonde hair and blue eyes.”
People were so captivated by her and her equally all-American brother, that they were both offered modeling jobs as kids. According to McKelvey, people in China love learning about Western culture and said the Chinese citizens have an extreme want for more European stores such as H&M.
“It would just be me, my brother and some American man who looks too young to really be a dad, posing as an all-American family in an ad for a washing machine,” she said.
Even though she loved growing up there, McKelvey said she had to trade off a lot in order to live there. She is now studying strategic communications with an Asian-studies minor at Elon University.
Her years living across the pond and the internship she had in Hong Kong this past summer showed her the opportunities she could have if she moves back, which is a possibility.
“I had an experience that not a lot of people had but I also didn’t get the experience most people had,” McKelvey said.