This past semester, I taught the (adult) Staff here at my university. It was an interesting and exciting 16 weeks, working on English language acquisition while also addressing issues pertaining to global educational inequalities. Myself, as an American who had recently taught in Africa, contrasted my experiences with theirs, most of whom had undergraduate level education in China but had traveled abroad for Masters and Doctoral work.
One of my students, Sandy, approached me after class asking if I could help her son, Michael, as he was a Senior in High School exploring options for universities in the United States. I of course welcomed the opportunity to assist him, meeting the next week to discuss the circumstances surrounding his decision. During his high school years, Michael’s parents had taken him on an extensive tour of American universities and he had decided upon completing his tertiary education in the States. He came to me with questions about specifics including the difference in campus culture between the University of Miami and the University of Wisconsin(?!) as well as the educational guidelines for deciding upon a major with the option to change if need be. It was refreshing to speak with a student who viewed the university experience as a part of collective personal growth, not solely limited to what takes place inside a classroom.
One of his interests was NYU, and he was curious to learn more. Through my networking as part of the USC Alumni Association of Shenzhen, I had come in contact with Mark, the President of the NYU Shenzhen Alumni Association, and reached out to him to see if he would be interested in sharing information with Michael. We set up a lunch meeting, and over the best Cantonese food I have ever eaten, we discussed the cultural and educational realities of being an International Chinese student at a place like NYU. Throughout the nearly three-hour long meeting, we touched upon issues ranging from class size to campus diversity, and from the availability of Chinese food to the safety measures implemented by the school. Michael and his parents listened intently, asking valid questions which addressed legitimate concerns while Mark told them of the countless benefits of attending school abroad, both from an international as well as domestic perspective.
Needless to say, Michael accepted the offer to attend NYU in the Fall, and has since been involved with the university’s preparatory committees both in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. He and his parents will fly to New York in August for the welcoming convocation and begin the long (and expensive) path of university life in America. In an effort to share his story, I interviewed Michael last week, and have now put together a 10-minute video where he talks about his decisions, the process, and his hopes for the future. As someone who continues to have the opportunity to view education through different cultural lenses, I was grateful to have met Michael through his mom, one of my students; a testament to the global perspective I try to highlight in my classes.
If you have the time, I encourage you to watch the video, as it highlights the circumstances of a modern day young Chinese student and his understanding of international education, including the benefits of an expanded worldview which comes with studying abroad, where truly, the world is your classroom…