CHINA, MY MENTOR: Practical Advice and Lessons from my Adventures in China

 

(Remember when I decided to commit this year to blog writing?  Well, I ended up doing something a bit more interesting…)

Introducing, “CHINA, MY MENTOR,” now available on Amazon Kindle, and Audible soon enough.  You can retrieve it for FREE from Monday 10/1 until 10/5.

If you’re looking to maximize your self-development and achieve the greatest results in as little time as possible, I can’t think of a better way to accomplish that than by studying abroad in China.

Of course, not everybody has the time or money necessary to go all the way to China, but never fear! This book is written for those people who WANT to grow from spending time abroad, but simply don’t have the time.

As a certified ESL teacher, Mandarin-speaker, and student of China, I have chosen to consolidate my experiences in the People’s Republic of China for YOUR maximum benefit.

In this book, you will learn:

•The Chinese Diet – how following simple, easy-to-learn dietary guidelines will leave you thinner, more energetic, and calmer.

•Eastern Spirituality – how to easily incorporate aspects of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism to lead a more happy, healthy, and fulfilling life… without abandoning your own faith.

•Relationships – how the Chinese lifestyle emphasizes meaningful relationships, reciprocity, healthy interdependence, and how you can incorporate these healthy Confucian attitudes into your own life.

•Self-care – what I learned from the time when I fell severely ill and only recovered when my ‘Chinese Mother,’ Sara, yelled at me and forced me clean my act up.

•Minimalism – how adapting to a shoddy living-situation taught me gratefulness, and how to easily apply gratefulness in your own life without having to maintain a lame ‘gratitude journal.’

•Proverbs – the final (and possibly best) chapter of this book: interpretations of classic Chinese proverbs.

•And many, MANY more of the ways in which China may mentor you to become your better self.

So what are you waiting for? Your miniature life-changing study abroad experience is awaiting you inside this book.

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Challenges Families Face When Applying to College from China

To send their children to American universities, Chinese families need to understand how the college admissions process in the US differs from that in China.

Janet Rosier, a Certified Educational Planner and College and Graduate Admissions Consultant who has first-hand experience in assisting Chinese International Students with attending school in the U.S., offers us some valuable insight into the challenges international students may face when applying for schools.

“In general, I would say that there is a greater need for these families to first understand the overall process of how colleges evaluate students in the US. They are coming from a system that is very focused on the scores of one exam, the Gaokao, which determines the colleges to which the student is eligible to apply,” says Rosier.

The parents of Chinese international students belong to a society where a student’s Gaokao (standardized test) scores almost fatalistically determine one’s academic and vocational futures. The U.S. system, meanwhile, utilizes a more holistic approach; American universities consider a wider variety of factors in an applicant, including community service, extracurriculars, and academic honors.

U.S. schools also come in more shapes and sizes than Chinese schools; American universities vary substantially by size, religious affiliation, majors offered, emphasis on athletics, and academic honors options. There is more individuality between different universities, which requires more decision-making and research for applicants seeking to attend American colleges. These differences may confuse applicants.

American families are already so familiar with the stresses of the college application process. Chinese international students, who come from such a different cultural background, might find this system especially confusing, nerve-wrecking, or frustrating. For example, college admission concepts like “Early Decision” and “Restricted Early Action” might seem foreign to Chinese internationals, or the parents of first-generation Chinese Americans. According to Janet, “There are many details to be aware of and first generation families may feel overwhelmed by so many decisions.”

The Chinese tend to place a great deal of importance on attending quality universities, but from across the world, the average Chinese only recognizes the most famous universities. One Chinese international student at Fairfield University currently plans on transferring to New York University, uprooting her social life and local career advances to attend a more famous university. Fairfield University has very strong academic programs and a great reputation in the northeast, but a potential employer in China likely has never heard of Fairfield. Meanwhile, if that employer hears that Yale University in New Haven and Fairfield are thirty minutes apart from one another, they may interpret that proximity to mean that Fairfield University is a quality organization. This logic, faulty as it may be, plays a major role in where international students may ultimately study.

US colleges tend to limit how many international students they will admit, and within that percentage, admit students from a plethora of countries. “Since many may have limited knowledge of the more than 2000 four-year colleges in the US, there is usually a disproportionate number applying to the “name” colleges, making it more competitive still.”, according to Rosier.

Chinese international students may improve their chances of attending American universities by applying to less famous colleges, learning about the U.S. higher education system, and setting reasonable expectations for their applicants.

If you are interested in Janet Rosier’s educational consulting services, you may find her website at: http://www.janetrosier.com/

If you would like to read the greater content of this interview which was not condensed into this article, click here.

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For Chinese Nationals, Receiving a U.S. Visa Takes Time and Patience

Lenny, a native of Hunan Province, China, aims to attend school in Chicago, USA.

Chinese university students who desire to come to the U.S. to study must jump through many hoops to obtain a visa.

Meet Lenny Chen (the English name of Chen Jia’xi), who will begin studying at an American university this year.  In an interview with WHOC, Chen agreed to share some of the steps and intricacies of receiving an F-1 (student) Visa to attend school in America.

The Process

Applying for a visa begins online with college applications, an entire process in and of itself.  A prospective Chinese international student needs to obtain a letter of acceptance from a U.S. university.

Once (and if) they receive that acceptance letter, that university must complete an I-20 form for them.  This form will prove that they can pay their tuition in America and have financial support, and universities will only provide an I-20 if they believe the student can support themselves.  On a student Visa (F-1 or F-2), expatriates in the United States cannot legally find a job, which underscores the importance of the I-20 form’s data.  Because America’s cost of living significantly outweighs the cost of living in China and the average income of Chinese families, primarily students from wealthy or upper-middle class families can receive student visas.

Then, they must bring the I-20 form along with other documents to an interview at the Consular.  This interview tends to nerve-wrack and even tongue-tie applicants for a few reasons.  First, the interview fees are non-refundable, so even if an applicant does not receive a visa, they will not receive back their ¥2000 yuan deposit.1  Second, the consular officer holds the keys to the U.S., wielding the power to decide whether an applicant meets the visa requirements.  Third, if the interview goes awry, the Consular might question the student’s integrity, dramatically reducing the likelihood that the student will ever receive their visa.

Chen said, “A lot of people, myself included, get very nervous about what documents to prepare and what things to say during the interview.”  He suggests that applicants present as much supporting documentation as possible to help persuade the Consular officer of their eligibility.  These files include English proficiency test scores (TOFEL, CET-4, or CET-6), flight information, and even letters of recommendation from parents’ employers which vouch for the applicants financially standing.  The most important job of an, according to Chen, is to convince the Consular that they will use the visa as intended: to attend school, return to China once they have completed studies, and pay their tuition without working a job.

Silver Lining 

For all of the difficulties and obstacles en route to the U.S., Chen does not forget the reasons why he wants to study abroad: “[I want] to experience what studying and life in general are like in the US, to immerse myself in a culturally and politically different environment… [and] also because I have many good friends in the US I’d like to see again.”

Thankfully, although circumnavigating the application process involves work and stress, anyone who diligently follows through with the process and meets the Consular’s criteria has a chance of success.  According to Chen,  “I’d say it wasn’t easy, but it was better than I had expected after I gained more knowledge of how the system worked.”

In conclusion, Chen imparts the following advice for any Chinese student readying for their interview:

I think the importance of honesty during your visa interview really cannot be overemphasized.  Because even when it seems like the truth doesn’t help your case, when you are honest, the officer still might issue your visa.

To read the full interview with Lenny Chen, click here.

 

(1) For reference, ¥2000 yuan equals approximately $300 at the time of publishing. Although a $300 Consular fee might not raise American eyebrows, Matador Network offers some comparison for perspective: “A nice two bedroom, one bath apartment with wooden floors and marble counters in the kitchen will run around 4,500 RMB a month (about $587.50 USD)… In the aforementioned apartment, one could expect to pay an additional 300 RMB in utilities per month.”

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2018 for Journalism & 2017 in Review

In less than 48 hours, the year of 2017 will end!

I spent this last year fulfilling most of the goals that I outlined in my past article, 2017: Upcoming 8 EXCITING Chinese Cultural Experiences!  Indeed, I have enjoyed a very rich set of experiences that all connect to Chinese culture and society.

Experience: In Tibet, Posing with Monks and a Tour Guide

An overview of my experiences in 2017

  • I received a TEFL certificate to teach English as a foreign language
  • I taught English in China to college kids
  • I spent two weeks traveling along China’s ancient silk road
  • I spent the fall 2017 semester studying abroad in China
  • I received funding to pilot Fairfield University’s Conversation Partners Program, which they formally adopted through the 2017-2018 school year
  • I spent the summer interviewing other American universities to learn more about their Conversation Partners Programs, and provided this data to Fairfield for the sake of improving their program
  • I worked on the marketing team for AIEP (Apex International Education Partners), a company that recruits Chinese international students and provides these students with home-stays in the U.S.

Endeavors in journalism

When I halted work on Wen Hua On Campus (WHOC), I knew that I had some real work to do.  Through 2017, I accumulated these experiences which have truly sharpened my understanding of China, the Chinese people, international education, and what China means to the U.S.  Now that I have put in some work, I believe that my work on WHOC ought to resume.

This year, I want to change the tone and focus of this blog.  Whereas before, I combined discovery and inquiry with an informal, somewhat playful voice to discuss Chinese international student life, I would like to create more serious, journalism-oriented content.

Let’s see what we can learn.

 

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Introducing the Conversation Partners Program

Why hello there!

You may have noticed that I have not updated this blog in quite a while, although the tagline still reads, “Every Week.”  Truth is, a big project of mine is just about to come to fruition, so I have returned to WHOC to discuss it: the Conversation Partners Program.

What is the Conversation Partners Program?

Great question.

The Conversation Partners Program will provide Fairfield University students with intensive English Second Language (ESL) training without the stress of enrolling in a credited university course.  My idea for this program originally stemmed from my interview with an exchange student, an interaction that opened my eyes the burden of a language barrier.

This program will facilitate intercultural communication by connecting international students with native English speaking peers.  These domestic students will first receive TESOL training (teaching English to speakers of other languages), an education provided by an ESL instructor with 20 years of experience.

That pretty-looking flyer mentions a field trip to IKEA and New Haven, CT.  What is that all about?

A few things:

First off, IKEA tends to unite all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, religion, political party, or other cornerstone traits; People just love IKEA.

In all seriousness, downtown New Haven has not only the beautiful architecture of Yale University, but features also some of America’s greatest pizza.  As “language cannot survive without culture,” we will eat some grub and keep alive our passion for learning.  Plus, because this trip will occur at the tail-end of the semester, we will assist our ESL students with their final coursework.

How effective do you think this will actually be?

Whether this program will ‘hit it off’ from day one or collapse into utter chaos, I seek to answer a deeper question: “Why?”

Does this mean that your work on this blog will resume?

I continue to receive this question.

My answer: yes and no.

I evidently prioritize this Conversation Partners project for its potential to empower students.  Meanwhile, the intellectual and intercultural pursuits for which I designed this blog to track, discuss, and record, have enveloped this whole thing.

‘Till next time!

 

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New Research Paper: ‘TESOL’ Education in China

Hello!

For this Sunday, I have posted a research paper here that discusses the cultural effects of English education in China.  Really thought-provoking stuff.

Have a great week, fam!

-Jesse

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One Side of the Story: Taiwan and China are Different

Another lovely weekend helping exchange students get acclimated to Fairfield University.

We have a new Taiwanese student, and I couldn’t help but to notice more Americans ask the same question:  “So you’re Chinese?”

A question followed by the same response each time:  “China and Taiwan are not the same thing!!”

Please view this…

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Kristin Lynch: China and the U.S. have DIFFERENT Education-styles

I recently emailed a few questions to Kristin Lynch, the program manager at EduBoston: an international organization that connects (F1) [0]    Chinese-exchange students with host families, education, and a whole bunch of other programs in America.  (You can read the full interview here).

Annually, the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. has grown.[1]   Clearly, these students must see some value in American education, otherwise they would not be arriving in such large numbers.

Lynch points out, “Perhaps the main reason parents want their children to study here and students want to come, is the different educational philosophy. Education in the U.S. is interactive and student-centered.  It is designed to encourage student inquiry, curiosity, analytical thinking, and a love of learning.”  Meanwhile, China has a “more rigid, teacher-centered education system, the signals can be confusing” which emphasizes listening, memorization and formal exams.

These views run contrary to news headlines.

Popular criticism: the U.S. education system is “lagging” behind China’s.2

Those who rank the world’s top school systems each year have concluded that America’s school system has fallen behind those in other countries during the past few years.  This assessment has sparked education reform and Common Core policies throughout the U.S. [3]  

However, the ranking systems’ metrics do not measure self-esteem, self-efficacy, creative thinking capacity, and other qualitative types of “brains.”

When American news perpetuates the fear that China will “overtake” the United States with their superior education system, they neglect a crucial fact:  If a student fails the Gao’Kao, China’s college-entrance standardized tests, they will not receive their high school diploma.  The Gao’Kao does not allow for second-tries or do-overs, so students face intense pressure from a young age to succeed, as failure means “no degree, poor job prospects and a life full of regret.”  This system has some nasty side-effects on the psyche of young students. [4]   

Many parents in China view America’s holistic education favorably.

Lynch notes that U.S. education places more emphasis on the individuality of each student: “[In America], many assignments involve choice, exploration of one’s own interests, and expression of one’s own ideas.”  Also noteworthy, participation in Chinese classrooms is discouraged while in the U.S. participation and class discussions form a portion of a students’ overall grade.

According to Lynch, more and more teachers are also using project-based learning to get students using academic knowledge and skills to make real things and solve real problems, “creating a stimulating, memorable, and confidence-building learning experience.”

The focus on the well-being and self-esteem of students’ compels many to pursue American schooling, even if China’s schooling yields higher test scores. “Many Chinese parents also recognize the value of sports and clubs… and they want their children to can participate in them.”  She also adds in that “activities, such as sports, clubs, music, and volunteering, allow students to explore, discover, and develop their interests and talents.”

So, what do you think? Feel free to email me at jesse.sachs@student.fairfield.edu or leave a comment.

 

If you are interested in EduBoston’s programs or hosting an international student, check out their website:  http://www.eduboston.com


[0]  An F1 visa, which differentiates from a J1, allows for a fuller, more long-term educational experience in America.

[1]  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/11/most-foreign-exchange-students-in-us-come-from-chi/

[2]  http://www.aft.org/news/us-students-still-lagging-international-assessments

[3]  http://asiasociety.org/education/global-roots-common-core-state-standards

[4]  http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/07/asia/china-gaokao-shen-lu

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2017: Upcoming 8 EXCITING Chinese Cultural Experiences!

2017 is now in session.

This year is going to be pretty amazing for me because of the major plans that I have underway in all things Chinese.  In formulating these ideas, I picked up on a bit of superstition: I have 8 total plans.  See, Chinese culture views the number ‘8’ is of good luck due to its similar pronunciation to the word ‘fortune’ or ‘wealth.’

I want to share these plans with you today, but there’s also a catch:  In Chinese culture, the number ‘4’ represents bad luck due to its similar pronunciation with the world ‘death.’  In the name of not jinxing my supposed good luck, I’ll leave out the fourth item on my agenda.  Only time will reveal what other project I have underway, so if you’re at all interested then I suggest that you follow along with my weekly updates on this blog.

1.  From June to July, I will spend 4 weeks in Beijing tutoring a host family in the English language

I enrolled in China T’s World Explorers program, where low prices and student discounts can take me Beijing for 4 weeks.  Living in a Chinese household will immerse me in Chinese culture in a different way than dorm-life could.  (Plus, I’ll detour through India afterwards for two weeks to hang out with my friend, Sri: a whole separate adventure.).

2.  From June to August, I will complete a 120-hour program to receive a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) Certificate

Receiving a TEFL Certification has some unknown benefits.  Many English-teaching jobs around the world require only a TEFL certificate, where many of these positions are temporary.  These short-term positions means that I can travel the world inexpensively by teaching in one country, traveling throughout the region until my next job begins.  My inner-nomad may reveal itself, as this lifestyle is sustainable for a long time.

3.  In the Fall Semester, I will study abroad in Beijing and travel more extensively throughout China

After this summer’s “dry run,” I will return to the Chinese capital for a university experience.  This long-term, extensive language-immersion opportunity will allow me to rigorously study Mandarin.  During the semester, I’ll take a school trip through ancient Silk Road cities.  (After the semester ends, I’ll check out South Korea and backpack through Thailand before returning home. )

4. Shhh!

5.  In March, I will lead a team in establishing an advocacy group to specifically address the needs of Chinese-exchange students

This is an on-going, collaborative process which has already begun.  Working with professionals and campus-organizations, I am leading a team to establish greater representation of the particular needs and issues faced by Chinese-exchange students.  Few American universities– even state schools– have explored this territory.  Take note!

6.  By December 31st, I will take the HSK Chinese Proficiency Test to receive certification in Mandarin Chinese

My goal: receive an ‘Advanced C’ (professional) certification after studying abroad.  The past 5 interesting years in building up my language skills have fueled unexpected friendships and adventures, and this year I seek an official return on investment.

7.  Until May 2016, I now officially work as a ‘Peer Mentor’ for a new exchange student

This student may or may not be Chinese, and I will not know for another two weeks, but I will do my very best job to advocate for this individual anyhow.  My school has partnered with a Mentoring Collective (organization) called Sheerwater, a company which will match me up with the one.  Its like Match.com but for Mentors and Mentees (exchange students).

8. This January, I will help lead the Fairfield University international students’ Spring Orientation

In only 10 days, this adventure will commence.  Working with a super talented and fun team last August was a blast, and we will build off of those experiences to upgrade the process to provide more value than ever before.

Needless to say, the adventures in store for 2017 should ‘rock my socks off.’  As the pieces fall into place, I will keep WHOC updated with new discoveries and tid-bits.

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures, don’t forget to subscribe.

Happy New Years!

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CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: Interviewing blogger Kyle Liang

I have had to redefine how I, as a first-generation-born Asian American, fit into that America. That has not been easy.

-Kyle Liang

Meet Kyle Liang, a Taiwanese-Malaysian American.  He runs a witty personal blog called Learning The Alphabet, where he has received over 100,000 views writing about his experiences as an “Asian American in a not-so-Asian America.”

Given his valuable insight, I am very grateful that he took the time out to answer a couple questions.

Note: This is the abridged version.  You can read the full interview here!

Q:  Over the years of writing/updating your blog, what has been an important revelation or insight you’ve gained about your identity as an Asian-American?

I realized that a lot of us–Asian American, African American, European American–are going through the same problems just in different ways.  When I first started my blog, there was a girl from Kenya who would always comment about how she has had very similar experiences.  Over the last few years, my blog has gotten me into conversations with people that I didn’t think I could identify with.  It has been a pleasure learning about other people, how much our stories overlap, and how we’ve dealt with our problems differently.

Q:  What sorts of life-situations have raised questions for you about “who you are?”

Kyle, of Connecticut was born to a Malaysian mother and Taiwanese father.

I think that I started asking myself “who I am” when I was in preschool.  There were only 3 Chinese kids in my class including me, my best friend but the other kid was pretty overweight, so me and my other Chinese friend made it a point that we were not to be associated with him (I know, we were mean) because we were afraid that everyone in our class would associate us together since the three of us were Asian.

The next few years, I was teased for my squinty eyes, food I ate, and other traits attributed to my race and upbringing. The last thing I wanted during that time was to be associated with being Asian. I eventually overcame this insecurity by high school, but when I moved into my college, where the overwhelming majority [of students] are white and come from wealthy families, I felt like I had to start redefining my perception of America… how I, as a first-generation-born Asian American, fit into that America. That has not been easy.

Q:  Your writing is very humorous, and I have literally LOL’d reading through your blog.  How much of a role do you feel that humor has played in your life?

When it comes to discussing sometimes sensitive topics such as the ones on my blog, I like to bring in humor because it makes it easier to read.  I think that introducing humor to topics that are difficult to discuss  can make others more willing to listen and hear what you have to say.  I think that laughter is something any two people can share, and [can] create a bridge for understanding, for learning, and for shattering preconceived notions and dissolving racial stereotypes.

Q: What has kept you blogging after all of this time?

My concern is that the Asian-American experience is often neglected when we talk about discrimination and adversity in America.  I don’t want to speak on behalf of Asian-American people, I just want to make sure that there are Asian-American voices being heard.  So in that regard, I don’t feel like I’m trying to keep it going, instead I feel like I’m trying to make sure my voice doesn’t fall silent.

 

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