Another summer of exam results have come and gone, and for a select few of Beijing’s international student body it’s time to swap the comforts of school for the challenges of college. But is university always the right choice? What about going straight into the work force, or getting life experience during a gap year? And are exam results really the be all and end all? beijingkids looks to the future with students from St Paul American School.
Effie Harker, 17, US, has lived in Beijing for seven months
Pierre Diop, 17, Senegal, recently moved to Beijing
Gina Jung, 17, South Korea, has lived in Beijing for five years
Patrick Ju, 17, South Korea, has lived in Beijing for two years
How important are your exam grades to you?
Effie: They’re pretty important to me.
Pierre: They are very important because they let you see how you’ve improved. You might have started as a mediocre student with mediocre grades, but improving them can help with your self-esteem.
How many hours a day do you spend studying outside of the classroom?
Effie: It depends; I usually spend between two and four hours a day.
Pierre: I don’t really count how much time I spend studying. I get home, I do my homework and if I don’t complete it that day I’ll wake up early the next morning to finish it.
Patrick: I spend different amounts of time working. If I have an essay I’ll do more.
Do your families’ expectations influence how hard you work towards exams?
Effie: My family says that if I don’t do the work then I’m messing up my own future. They tell me to work as hard as I want to – but they still want me to get good grades.
Pierre: My parents told me that my education is the one thing I should take full responsibility for because it’s my future. It’s really important to work as hard as you can, get good grades and get to college.
Gina: They said I would regret it if I didn’t study, so they expect me to work.
Is it better to go to college or straight into the work force after school?
Pierre: I honestly believe college is a much better choice. You learn much more and after college you can go on to achieve a master’s degree, and then a Ph.D., which will help your job prospects.
Effie: I think college is very important because you can get better jobs and get a lot further with your career.
Patrick: It depends on what job you want to do. For example, if you want to be a vet or doctor then you will have to go to college and study hard, but if you want to be a policeman then it’s better to go straight into work.
What is important for you when choosing a college?
Effie: I want to go to a college that when people look at it they think: “She went to a good one.” Also, I’d look at what courses they offer. I want to study Chinese but some schools don’t offer it. Finally, I’d consider its size – I want to go to a small school.
Pierre: Reputation. Some universities in Canada and the US have very good reputations – like MIT. When people look at my CV they will see that I went to a good school. It’s always vital to go to the top universities.
Patrick: I think the quality of teaching and being able to offer lots of information about jobs are what makes a good college.
Would you ever consider going to a Chinese university?
Pierre: I’m planning to study here for two years to become fluent in Chinese, and then get my master’s and Ph.D. in Canada.
Effie: I would go to a Chinese school for a year maybe, but I wouldn’t want to go there for the full four years of college.
Gina: I think the ranking of US colleges are higher. I would go to a Chinese university, but I think they work too hard and it can make the students depressed.
What will you do if you don’t make the grades you need for college?
Pierre: I’ve never actually thought about it because I like to think that I will achieve what I set out to do. I guess I’ll score high enough to get a good education.
Effie: There are always some colleges that will accept us, right?
Patrick: I think if I don’t get into college, I will try to study myself and find a job by showing that I can do better than a college graduate.
What is the best way to stand out in the competitive job market?
Effie: I think when you apply to university everybody pretty much looks the same, so you need something a bit special to stand out. Going to high school in China is good for that.
Pierre: Also where you come from. I’m from a Third World country and I believe that if you can make it out of there, you can make it anywhere.
How do you balance school life with social life?
Pierre: Friends come and go but with education you only have one shot, so you should put education before everything else.
Effie: You could get nerdy friends! You don’t want to get buried under a pile of books, but you don’t want to ruin your education either. While it’s important to study, you should also remember to have fun.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Effie: I wanted to be a marine biologist.
I really loved the ocean when I was little and I was obsessed with learning about fish.
Pierre: I wanted to be a professional soccer player. I always loved playing sports.
Gina: When I was in kindergarten, I really wanted to be the president of a country when I grew up.
Patrick: I also wanted to be a professional soccer player.
Are you planning to take a gap year?
Effie: I considered going to a language school for a year in Beijing, but then I decided to go straight to college.
Pierre: My plan to stay here and study, but I think I might take a year out to become fluent in Mandarin.
Gina: I don’t want to take a gap year because I don’t want to still be studying when I am old.
Patrick: I agree with Gina. If I took a gap year I might be too old by the time I graduat