Full Interviews

Here are the full responses from the interviews that I have (and will) conduct.  I shorten these responses for the sake of the blog, but a few readers have contacted me asking for full discussions.  Here you are!

Interview Table Of Contents:

  1. Kyle Liang
  2. EduBoston
  3. Lenny Chen
  4. Janet Rosier

1. Kyle Liang 

 

 

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?

A:  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 could identify so much with. It has been a pleasure learning about other people as they learn about me, and through that find out how much we have in common, how much our stories overlap, and how we’ve dealt with our problems differently, which has led us to where we are now.

Q:  What different places have you lived?  What types of questions have these places raised for you about “who you are?”

A:  I was born and raised in Norwich, Connecticut but my mom spent the first 20 years of her life in Malaysia and my dad spent the first 20 years of his in Taiwan. Whether I knew it at the time or not, I think that I started asking myself  “who I am” and “with which people do I associate with and with which people do other people associate me with” when I was in preschool. There were only 3 Chinese kids in my class including me and one of them was my best friend but the other kid was pretty overweight and I remember him being very clumsy 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). But whether we knew it or not, the reason why we made it a point not to be associated with him was because we were afraid that everyone in our class would naturally associate all us together since the three of us were Asian, or whatever that meant at the time. The next few years of grade school led me to draw even bigger distinctions between myself and other Asian people because 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 because my hometown is extremely heterogeneous, but when I moved into my current college, where the overwhelming majority is white and many students come from wealthy families and areas, I felt like I had to start redefining my perception of America because I was learning about a culture and atmosphere that I never knew existed. And because I have had to redefine my perception of America to accommodate everything I’m learning in this new place, I have had to redefine how I, as a first-generation-born Asian American, fit into that America. That has not been easy.

Q:  What sort of advice would you give to a recent arrival (an exchange student from China or Taiwan) who may be confused about how their identity or ethnicity fits in with America?

A:  That’s a tough one. There are a number of Asian exchange students at my university who I worry about… One of my belief’s is that feeling alone doesn’t have to feel so alone if you’re with other people who are like you and feel the same way. My advice to them would be to find people who they identify with, whether it’s because they look the same, come from the same area, come from a similar family background, or speak the same language, because it’s easy to become immediately overwhelmed by the fact that you are surrounded by people who don’t speak the same language as you or are the same skin color as you. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t meet people who are similar to you. Getting involved with groups or organizations that pertain to your interests is a good place to start because you’ll meet people who you know you immediately share an interest with. And for new arrivals, I think the one thing that they should keep in mind is that they are cool, interesting people. Other students will want to get to know you because you come from a different country than them so you should take advantage of that, be open and friendly, and try to meet as many people as you can. Embrace the fact that you have so much to offer. You will never know how similar or different you are to someone until you have a conversation with them so have as many conversations as you can.

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?

A:  I’ve always been someone who loves to make jokes every chance I get (even when it’s not appropriate). It used to get me in trouble when I was younger because I’d make comments during class that would get me sent to time out. I can’t help but try to find humor in everything. But 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 or difficult to understand can make others more willing to listen and hear what you have to say. It generates a common ground where you can come together on something even if you disagree on everything else. When I say or write a joke that someone else thinks is funny, that says to me, “I understand you enough that I can say something that I know you will find funny and you understand me enough to feel comfortable laughing at what I said.” I think that humor and laughter is something any two people can share, and by creating a bridge between myself and others through laughter, I also create a place where we can exchange our lives, ideas and experiences back and forth, a bridge for understanding, for learning, and for shattering preconceived notions and dissolving racial stereotypes.

Q:  Updating a blog can be difficult sometimes.  What has kept you going after all of this time?

A:  To be honest, I’m probably not the best person to answer this question because I don’t update my blog as often as I should. But what I can say about updating my blog is this, it doesn’t feel like a chore because I know it is serving a good purpose, aiding a necessary cause. I am someone who is willing to open my life to others if it can help reveal issues that can be readily addressed or at the very least better understood. My concern is that the Asian-American experience is often neglected when we talk about discrimination and adversity in America so what I hope to do through my blog is to 1. remind people that our struggles exist as well and they are not to be forgotten, and 2. let others who share my same experience know that they are not alone because I wish that I knew someone who was going through or went through the same struggles of diaspora that I did and am currently still going through. I use my blog as a voice for myself and any other Asian Americans who share my experiences. 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.

 

2. EduBoston

 

 

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges for a Chinese exchange student in America?

A:  In my opinion, the biggest challenges depend on the age of the student and their previous level of English study.

College students often have good essay composition skills and literary analysis skills in Chinese that help them in developing these skills in English.  For these students, the biggest challenge is academic listening comprehension, such as understanding class lectures and being able to take notes.  Reading and watching documentaries related to their field of study can help develop specific vocabulary. Also, learning the most common academic words, on the Academic Word List, can greatly improve academic listening and reading comprehension.

For younger students, organization, time management, and staying too connected to life and friends in China are bigger obstacles. Just as American students often struggle to stay focused and disciplined when they first live away from their parents, so do Chinese students.

However, in our program, there is a lot of support for these students.    Teachers, tutors, host families, program managers, regional managers, international student coordinators at the partner schools, and bilingual student affairs coordinators will all intervene and help. They will meet and talk with the student individually, take the student out for lunch, encourage them, advocate for them, give them some perspective and a strict talking-to if needed.  All team members will do whatever it is that that student needs to help them to succeed.  We also have a customer support team in China, which helps keep parents informed, advocates for the parents and students, and facilitates communication between the student’s parents and the U.S. school and support team.

Not surprisingly, another challenge for these students is communicating in English with native speakers.  Of course, this gets better with time, but it helps them develop both fluency and confidence if they have a lot of opportunities to practice speaking in a safe environment before they try it with their American peers.  We give them plenty of opportunities to do that in their Bachson Intensive English classes.  Additionally, we also simultaneously teach them about U.S. culture and typical conversation patterns. This base of understanding is also crucial in helping them to connect with their American classmates.

Q:  Do you think some of these challenges go unnoticed or unrecognized?

A:  In the case of students who already know quite a bit of English and can have a conversation with ease, native speakers and teachers may incorrectly believe they understand everything that native speakers do, including academic language.  Academic language takes longer to develop, and is something that students only learn by studying subjects and learning new things in the language.  They may think that students who are struggling with a reading assignment are lazy or unintelligent, when in reality, there are a lot of words and phrases that the student has never seen or heard before.  One of our goals at Bachson is to help mainstream subject that teachers understand the extra challenge it is for international students to learn, for example, biology or history, in their second language.  We also help them find ways to make the ideas more accessible to students who are still learning the language.

Some students also have difficulty adjusting to the different educational style and classroom expectations in the U.S.  Participation in class discussions and group work is essential. Chinese students often take some time to warm up to this and eventually become comfortable raising their hands to volunteer, comment, and contribute to discussions.  To students coming from a background where listening, memorization and formal exams were of primary importance, it requires a change of mindset to realize that class participation and regular homework are significant parts of their grade here.

Also, U.S. classes may seem more informal because there is a lot of discussion and teachers are often friendly and even sometimes make jokes.  However, the learning objectives and assignments are still very serious.  To students coming from a more rigid, teacher-centered education system, the signals can be confusing.

Furthermore, in the U.S. students are expected to take an active role in their own learning, and many assignments involve choice, exploration of one’s own interests, and expression of one’s own ideas.   Some kids understand this and immediately thrive in this classroom environment, but there are always a few who initially struggle to take this more active role in their own learning and do these kinds of self-driven assignments.

Mainstream U.S. teachers may underestimate the differences in educational background and expectations of classroom behavior that these students are coming from, and so may not realize why their Chinese students may fail to fully participate initially.  One of our programs involves educating U.S. teachers about these cultural differences to prevent misunderstandings and enable them to recognize the reasons for their students’ behavior and reach out to these students to help them adjust.

Again, EduBoston’s six-layered student support team makes all the difference here.  Because all the team are in constant communication with each other and the students, no student can fall through the cracks and no problems will go unnoticed.  If a student is falling behind, a whole team of people will get involved to help the student resolve the problem.  The student also always has a choice of trusted adults he or she can call on, in English or Chinese, to get answers to questions and help with problems.

Q: Why do you feel that the number of students coming to America has been growing annually?

A:  There are several reasons, really.  As I understand it, there is a lot of competition to get into good universities in China. One reason that more students are coming here in high school is to increase their possibilities of getting accepted at a US university.  Of course, really learning to speak, read and write fluently in English is also a huge professional advantage, especially in business, science, and academics.

Another big attraction of U.S. schools for Chinese parents, 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.  Discussion is encouraged and valued, but students learn that they must structure and give support to their ideas and opinions.  Everyone is understood to have different strengths and areas of stronger interest, and teachers strive to adapt their teaching to best help individual students reach their potential.  Also, more and more teachers are 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.

Many Chinese parents also recognize the value of sports and clubs, which are big part of the high school experience here, and they want their children to can participate in them.  Extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, music, and volunteering, allow students to explore, discover, and develop their interests and talents.  They also develop students’ teamwork, resilience, and leadership skills and cultivate a passion for self-improvement, not to mention lifelong friendships.

While more Chinese parents and students are looking for better opportunities here, U.S. schools are welcoming more international students as they recognize the need to increase U.S. students’ global awareness and improve their intercultural communication.  Likewise, with increasing economic and intellectual globalization, U.S. universities are becoming more and more interested in establishing a global identity and relevance. To do so, they need to bring in top talent from around the world and so are recruiting international students in ever greater numbers.

Q: How influential do you feel that the students’ parents are in guiding the decision to study/exchange abroad?

A:  I have met many students who came because it was their life’s dream to come here, including some who had to work very hard to convince their parents to let them come.  They usually adjust quickly and do very, very well here.

Most students, however, seem to come because their parents see it as the best way to ensure their children get the best opportunities for study, a balanced and healthy adolescent life, and for their future careers.  Some students share their parents’ vision and are looking toward the future and motivated by their goals.  Others need a little help seeing those opportunities and finding their way.   We love and do our best to help these students find and achieve their dreams.

For more information about our agency, please visit our website at www.eduboston.com

 

 

3. Lenny Chen

 

 

Q: What makes you want to come to the U.S. to study?

A: Basically the same reasons as everyone else: to experience what studying and life in general are like in the US; to immerse myself in a culturally and politically different environment, etc. I’d add for me it’s also because I have many good friends in the US I’d like to see again.

Q: What will you study in the U.S.?

A: I selected a variety of courses ranging from science to language to humanities.

Q: What city in China are you from?

A: My hometown is in Hunan but I go to university in Beijing.

Q: Was it difficult to obtain a visa to come to the U.S.?

A: 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.

Q: What did you have to go through to obtain a visa?

A: There is no fixed number or kinds of documents you need to bring to the embassy besides your passport and your I-20 form. However, you should bring whatever document that you think will help in convincing the officer that your application has the aforementioned qualities. These documents generally include: your acceptance letter from the American institution which accepted you, your TOEFL or other language score report, a statement from your banking demonstrating your ability to finance your tuition and life in the US, your academic record at your home institution or anything else which you think might be of use.

 

During the interview, there are no fixed sets of questions the officer will be asking. As a matter of fact, they are trained to ask completely random and unpredictable questions and determine your credibility based on the answers you give. The interview will actually more resemble a small talk, so just stay relaxed and most importantly, be honest and tell the truth at all times.

 

I feel I need to start a separate paragraph for this as 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. But if you lie and get caught, it will result in a certain refusal and probably eliminate the possibility of you ever getting granted a visa in the future. Many of the strategies that the officers employ, such as asking random questions, etc, are there to help them detect lies. They will also write down most of your responses to their questions, and should they spot any discrepancy, they would be asking you very pointed questions regarding them,  to which if you fail to give a satisfactory answer, your visa will most certainly be denied and your record will be preserved for your next application. This is not an area where a lot of second chances are given, so if that ever happens, you probably will never be legally allowed to visit the United States, ever.

 

If your visa gets denied, do not panic either. After the interview, the officer will give you a piece of paper explaining to you why they couldn’t issue your visa. You can then rectify whatever went wrong and apply for the visa again.

 

So in conclusion, in order to get your visa, you must know what qualities the consular officers are looking for and try to present your application in a way that helps them see those qualities, all while remembering to remain honest at all times. And if you get denied, don’t pout and throw away that piece of paper that tells you why you didn’t qualify and instead read it so you know how to prepare your next application.

 

Good luck to anyone who’s going to be applying for student visas.

3. Janet Rosier

Through working with this population [first generation Chinese-Americans], what have you
discovered (if anything) about the particular needs of these first-generation applicants?

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. The parents have come from a
system that was very focused on the scores of one exam, the Gaokao, which determines the
colleges to which the student is eligible to apply.

The US system uses a more holistic approach to college admissions and takes many more factors
into account—it is much more than a test score. Additionally, we have many different kinds of
institutions– public colleges, private colleges, and some colleges that have a religious affiliation.
There is also a great deal of variety– large, medium and small colleges in urban, suburban and
rural areas. Not all colleges offer the same majors. It is a lot from which to choose and students
need help to sort through and decide the factors that are the most important for them and which
ones are a good fit.

It can also be very confusing just applying to college. Some colleges offer Early Decision, some
Early Action, some Restricted Early Action and some use a combination of these, each with their
own rules, requirements and deadlines. Some colleges offer priority deadlines for Honors
Programs or merit scholarships. There are many details to be aware of and first generation
families may feel overwhelmed by so many decisions.

Do you notice any differences between first-generation American students and your other
clients with regards to test scores, goals and expectations for college admissions, or any other
trends?

Yes. This group tends to be a little more focused on test scores, which makes sense. However
that is not to say scores are the only focus. I would say that first generation students, whether
they are Asian or from other areas, feel a great responsibility to do well and be successful. There
is a keen understanding that their family has sacrificed a great deal by having left relatives and
homelands behind in search of a better future. I think many feel a level of responsibility to be
successful, to make their parents proud and to be worthy of such great sacrifice. The expectations
for these students are very high and “success” may often be expressed as getting admitted to an
elite college.

What are some of the main challenges, if any, that Chinese nationals face in applying from
abroad?

This goes back to my previous answer– the difference in what is important to accomplish to be
admitted to a top university in China versus what is important to be admitted to a top university
in the US. Here, the transcript is more important than the standardized test scores—SAT or ACT.
Students who want to study in the US need to take a rigorous curriculum and earn good grades. It
is important that this is communicated early in the high school career to make certain that they
are making high grades a priority, which is not the same objective in China. They will also have
to score well on the TOEFL exam to demonstrate their ability to understand English at a high
enough level to do academic work in US colleges. Additionally, colleges will also evaluate what
students have done in their spare time. What kinds of clubs, sports, jobs or other activities they
participate in and if they have displayed leadership in these.

Chinese students who want to study in the US constitute a very large group. US colleges will
limit the number of International Students that make up their incoming class. Within that
percentage, colleges will want to admit students from a variety of countries. So, Chinese
nationals are in a very competitive pool from which to be chosen. Additionally, 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.
Students in China will increase their chances of acceptance to colleges here if they also look at
colleges outside of the most well-known universities.

 

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