East Meets West: Reflections on a Trimester Abroad

When tenth graders Angel and Eunice from Shanghai Qibao Dwight High School in China spent the spring trimester at our campus in New York last year, the experience was life changing.

When tenth graders Angel and Eunice from Shanghai Qibao Dwight High School in China spent the spring trimester at our campus in New York last year, the experience was life-changing.

The duo had heard that Dwight offered an exciting opportunity to study abroad ― earlier than in college  ― and couldn't wait to embark on the journey. Each year, through numerous international trips, exchanges, and cross-campus collaborations, Dwight students meet their peers from other continents, mature in many ways, and broaden their worldview. When students can spend more extensive time in another country as Angel and Eunice did, the level of personal growth can be striking.

Upon arrival in New York, Angel and Eunice experienced immediately two of the biggest differences between student life on our two campuses; back home, they live in dorms and their days are longer with structured evening schedules. In New York, the twosome experienced home-stay living and a school day that ends at 3 pm. During their free time, they explored museums, visited many sites, and took a giant bite out of The Big Apple!

Before Angel and Eunice headed back to Shanghai, we sat down with them to find out what they liked, learned, how the experience impacted them, and what they hoped to take home. Here's what they had to share:

Angel: Never Be Afraid to Try New Things

One of the biggest changes I have experienced since coming to New York is a change in mindset. I learned to spend my time differently, to relax, read, and enjoy sports. Before, I forced myself to play sports; now I enjoy them in a less structured way and believe in my choices more and more. The freedom is exciting, but I am also disciplined, so balance is important.

The inclusiveness and diversity of Dwight in New York are some of the most enjoyable parts ― meeting people from different countries and backgrounds ― and participating in advisory discussions about current events and American values. I learned to communicate better in a second language, which is like magic! It's the key to learning more about a culture. 

In China, I play on the Varsity badminton team and while in New York, I taught my classmates the rules and how to play in PE, which was the first time I taught this in English. It was fun!

The class I enjoyed most was film. I was scared before beginning because I had never made a film before. The first thing I learned was to experiment, which was new because we are usually taught to do things step by step. Now I want to go further! My spark of genius is to never be afraid to try new things. I pushed myself in film and to speak in English in class and now I am less afraid to do so; I want to continue to put myself outside of my comfort zone.

Eunice: Becoming More Passionate About My Own Interests

My goals in coming to New York were to think for myself in a new environment, be more relaxed in the face of new experiences, and not to compare myself to others. I achieved these ... and my English improved!

One of the activities I enjoyed most was the after-school portfolio prep program [visual arts studio]. We had an inspiring teacher, Ms. Sayers, and it was really creative. I also enjoyed design class, which was my first experience with coding. When I go back home, I plan to continue what I learned ― for myself ― not for my parents or teachers. I want to be more passionate about pursuing the things that I really want to do, such as jogging, which I did in Central Park!

My spark of genius is not being afraid to change or to find a better way to accomplish a goal. When I return to living in the dorms, I want to continue on this road and be more independent. The distance will make it harder to remain close to the new friends I made here in New York, but with social media, it will be easier to stay in touch. I also want to be more proactive in meeting and connecting with new people in Shanghai.

Angel and Eunice appreciate the support they received from everyone in New York and recommend enthusiastically that other students study abroad, which is just one of the advantages of being part of Dwight's global network. Both students ― now juniors ― want to return to the US for college. No matter where they attend university, we have no doubt that Angel and Eunice will continue on their exciting paths of personal growth.

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