by Levi J Parsons
SYDNEY, March 17 (Xinhua) -- International trade deals, bilateral agreements and strategic business partnerships are often considered the most important aspects of international relations.
But the richest foundation for cross-cultural communication between China and Australia lies with the 90,000 Chinese students studying in Australia and living among Aussie families.
"If it's your first time being in a foreign environment, something that reminds you of home is a good thing and a host family usually creates that similar atmosphere that you have when you're back at home," University of Sydney master's student Jony Sun told Xinhua.
"I would say in order to really experience studying abroad you should try living with a host family because you will find it very rewarding and there are a lot of cultural aspects you gain from it."
"One thing that is different from Hong Kong, is the indigenous culture here, at the opening ceremony for University I saw a didgeridoo for the first time!"
Over the past two years, the number of foreign students living with Australian host families has risen by 20 percent.
The unique experience offers borders a more cost effective way of engaging with Australian culture and for many, there is no better place to start than the family household.
"They treat you as a guest, so it's not like your mom telling you to go do chores or anything, although you still have that comforting home feeling," Sun said.
"When I first moved here, my host family was very enthusiastic about Aussie culture!"
"There is a difference, I feel like the people here are much more relaxed than in Hong Kong."
For Sun's host family, the experience has also been rewarding and a great opportunity to make new friends.
"It's been good! I like different cultures, I like new things and I feel personally coming from Maori culture in New Zealand, it's very similar to Chinese culture in regards to how they treat young people, children, the elderly and your family," Miri Furlong told Xinhua.
"It's a very inclusive way of life and on a personal level it's been extremely good for my kids, they have no prejudices and they've learnt to accept people, no matter who they are or where they're from."
The mother of four began offering her family home to visiting students seven years ago, in order to help with the cost of living.
"The area in Sydney where I live [Chatswood] is not the cheapest place to live but it's really good for family life," she said.
"I always include everything like meals in the price of boarding, because if I have a big family dinner, it's nice to have everyone sitting at the table."
As for life outside the home, the challenges of academia can be exhausting, especially when English is not your native language.
"I would say it's hard to start off, English is my second language and even though I'm fluent, it can be very hard," Sun said.
"When I went to class on the first day, the lecturer walked in the door and said I'm sure you've all heard of this'... and everyone nodded, but I was like, what the heck is going on?"
Despite the challenges, Sun is adamant that if you can pull through it, it is an extremely fulfilling process.
"The best thing about studying in Australia is that the environment is really nice, it's very spacious and people have a good pace of living," he said.
"They don't make assumptions about you, so I'm an Asian kid, Okay? Join our group!"
For those on the other side of the arrangement, a corresponding level of fulfilment is also reached by sharing a part of Australian life with others.
"I think it's a healthy thing because people's prejudices and negativity toward other cultures comes from not understanding them and not being familiar, but having someone in your home like this, you learn about them in a personal way," Furlong said.