November 1, 2016 | International Exchange

A US Student in St. Mary’s Guiyang

A US Student in St. Mary’s Guiyang

Meet Madeline, a 10th grade American student studying on our Guiyang campus. She bravely traveled to Guiyang to experience education in a vastly different academic environment and has since grown into a rather unique role there.

Living abroad is no easy feat – ask all those who have gone abroad for the first time about all the difficulties they face, through culture and language barriers, to the simple logistics of getting some decent, digestible food. Look around you at the cities you live in and ask yourself “How long did it take me to adjust here?” and “Could I go through this type of transition again?”. Some destinations are easier than others. Moving to Europe may certainly have a phase of love/hate, but it still has a somewhat familiar feel to home, or at least the cuisine does. However, living in China oftentimes feels like living in a completely different world – the language is difficult to master, the culture and personal/work relations are often complex, and the food, well, I guess it depends on which part of China you live in.

Now picture if you moved to China at a young age. What would that possibly a look like in your youthful perception? Exciting, bewildering, mysterious, unsettling – you name any thought or feeling and you are likely to experience it at some point. For a young person, it takes bravery and sincere commitment to take on the challenge of living abroad. KnowledgeLink is lucky to have one such student in our network, Madeline Martelles, who is experiencing China for the first time – as a student enrolled in the St. Mary’s Guiyang School, where she is entering her third month of the 10th grade fall semester. In doing so, she became the first US student enrolled in a St. Mary’s branch campus and will earn credits that apply towards her graduation back in the US.


Madeline with local Guiyang students













But why did she do it? Madeline shared her motivations for pursuing 10th grade studies in Guiyang. “The opportunity to study in China was one of the most motivating factors for me to move to Guiyang. In America, we hear about how rigorous high school is in China, and that’s true. Here in Guiyang, I have more classes and more hours than I had in America. Also, the teachers hold their students to a very high standard academically. In my opinion, high school in China is much more stressful than high school in America, but I find that the people and opportunities here make it all worthwhile.”

“Although high school can be quite stressful, Guiyang’s characteristics make it feel like a home away from home. In my experience, Guiyang people have been caring and generous; they are always willing to lend a helping hand.” One way Madeline felt this generosity was through the local school’s efforts to identify a suitable teacher to continue her cello studies, which had been interrupted with the move to China. She has since continued those studies under her new local Guiyang cello instructor.

In addition to the academic program, Madeline has come to appreciate the natural beauty and culture of Guiyang. “In addition to the people, the city itself is beautiful. Guiyang has huge green mountains and fresh water rivers all around. The food in Guiyang is spicy and delicious. Also, Guiyang is home of my new favorite foods, siwawa, a Guiyang specialty.”


Siwawa – A local treat in Guiyang















Madeline also took part in the 110th anniversary of Guiyang #1. According to Madeline, “Every student, from the regular program and international program were brought together as a team to show pride for our school. The school’s parade was truly something I never imagined a school doing. The parade was extremely different from anything the school I went to in America would ever do, but it was also delightfully fun”.


Photo from the 110th Anniversary of Guiyang #1










Madeline’s story is one we are seeing more and more around the world. Though we in the US are accustomed to seeing international students pursue their studies here, it is less common to see US students open their horizons to this extent, whether that is a semester or year abroad during an important high school academic year, or a full 4 years’ college study in an unfamiliar country. This is the first case where KL has seen a US student enrolled in a KL network school, the potential for student exchange & student experiential study is great and will most certainly happen more frequently over time. As business, economic, and cultural borders break down, schools like St. Mary’s are actively integrating their education into the global landscape, creating a space for students of all backgrounds to engage with and learn from one another.