February 6, 2017 | KL Community

Alumni Spotlight: Life Beyond Graduation

Alumni Spotlight: Life Beyond Graduation

Yukun Lu – Daniel Lu – spent his high school years at the St. Mary’s Wuhan program. Daniel chose the challenge of a new style of curriculum with foreign teachers and ultimately benefited. As part of the class of 2016, he graduated with stellar academics reflected in a high GPA and standardized test scores, raised over 20,000 RMB for charity as an community organizer, and gained acceptance to over 15 universities. Daniel eventually chose Wake Forest as his alma mater, where he expects to graduate in 2020. As an alumnus of St. Mary’s Wuhan, Daniel shares his story with the KnowledgeLink network:

I am just a pretty normal student without any special talents and skills, but I am still very happy to share my experience in Chinese and American education systems as well as how my life trajectory has changed over the past decade. I hope all this information can help you either have a deeper understanding about your future as a student or develop better skills as a teacher.

My own experience with the China and America education systems spanned the last 12 years – nine years in China education system, six of those in primary school, and three in middle school. Afterwards, I moved to the US education-based program at St. Mary’s Wuhan for the last three years. My deepest impression about Chinese education was the heavy workload and, frankly speaking, the workload in my middle school was equal to high school.

During middle school, I practiced every day to grasp the knowledge and test techniques. I was always tired after a whole day’s classes. Different information bounced around in my head. My task was to absorb and memorize information as quickly as possible since I could never be sure which content would be in the tests. Simply put, the Chinese system is more focused on testing rote memorization. Everything I did was for “Zhongkao,” the high school entrance exam. Exams were the end goal – I did not need to know how to apply the knowledge or the real meanings behind such information. Though the system was cold, teachers were very excellent and intelligent and I never once doubted their ability or dedication. It was due to the very nature of the education system that teachers needed to transfer their knowledge to the students as quickly and as much as possible for a set goal, rather than guide the students to develop their own interests and teach them to be life-long learners.

After my middle school experience, I felt what I learned in middle school was a cold struggle, and rather overwhelming. Learned content was easily forgotten, and the passion for learning was driven out of me. I did not like the stress and competition within the Chinese education system. I was always tired and afraid to get left behind. So I made the decision to study within the “relatively” more liberal and “easy” American system. For me, I like it better for two reasons: more time to think and more general courses. Broadly speaking, American classes were comparatively simpler or slower-paced than Chinese classes, but this did not mean I would learn less. On the contrary, it allowed me more time to think about what I was learning and the meanings of that knowledge, which would help me get deeper understanding about the courses and my own interests.

An example of this is from my history course at St. Mary’s Wuhan. I was not required to memorize everything or test frequently, allowing me time to think about the meanings and effects of all these historical events. I learned to compare histories horizontally and vertically and see the connections between them. The experiences at St. Mary set the foundation for my interest in history and I am now considering majoring in history.

The breadth of the curriculum also made it possible for me to develop interests in various fields. AP psychology led me into the world of the human mind for the first time and piqued my interests about human body and consciousness. These two characteristics of my high school curriculum not only helped me become more accustomed to the American education system and prepare me for the university courses, but more importantly, helped me know myself better.

Now that I have lived in the US for four months, I have also found some difficulties in transitioning to college here. Among all those challenges, I think the most difficult academic task is improving my writing skills. I do appreciate my experiences in St. Mary’s Wuhan, where I was provided many chances to write, such as occasional essays and research papers, which helped prepare me for the college assignments. The program made it possible for me to quickly get involved in class and found no difficulties on academic writings. However, I still haven’t gotten rid of some Chinese writing habits, and with my limited vocabulary, sometimes I cannot write in English as effectively as I had hoped. I found out that I still have great distance from American students in the class. These days, I am trying to improve my writing ability, through review, reading, and using my own “common place notebook,” in which I write down my everyday thoughts. I hope by doing so, I can improve my writing skills. However, the most important point is still perseverance. Whatever plan you have, the benefits only show up after everyday efforts. All these small daily improvements accumulate to finally produce great progress.

Overall, I consider myself a mediocre student. Even now, sometimes I still wonder what led me here. I think partly it was due to luck, but much of it came from the assistance of the St. Mary’s Wuhan program. Although a very new program, St Mary’s Wuhan worked tirelessly to help the students. I really liked the college counselling every year since I could see my progress over the past year and what I could do next year. It helped students set their own plan and guide them to do their own applications. Moreover, the broad classes and teachers in the program helped me see the world in a new light and develop my own interests. I hope no matter where you are, all students could use the great sources provided in the St. Mary’s program and handle their own futures. If a mediocre student like me can go through the high school and all the difficulties of university, I believe no one should fail in this process. I reckon all students can do well if they can follow their teachers, try their best in each class, be themselves, and never give up.

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