I am passionate about education in East Asia (especially Korea and China) and want to help change it by redefining the true meaning of education, shifting the emphasis on college admissions and test scores to the importance of nurturing basic human values. A potential way I’m considering to actualize this dream is to establish a school in Korea that does things differently from the traditional Korean schools. Although I have had experiencing teaching and mentoring, I had no idea what went into running a school. So I applied to the Princeternship at YingHua International School, a not-for-profit, independent school in Princeton that offers a Chinese-English dual language education for pre-school through elementary grades.
Dale and I were generously hosted by Kristin Epstein ’97, the Director of Development at YingHua. Most of our days were spent talking to Kristin and Natalie, the Director of the school and asking them questions. They gave us insight and shared about certain challenges of running, fundraising and recruiting teachers for a small, private school like YingHua. We also had great conversations about education in the U.S. and China.
It was helpful to see the tangible actions taken in order to support and expand the school. In order to raise money, Bonnie (the founder of YingHua) builds personal connections with private donors and Kristin needs to constantly search and apply for grants from governments, corporations and foundations. While we were there, Kristin was applying for grants for the school’s music and physical science programs so we were able to help her brainstorm materials that would benefit the students. Kristen also showed us specific ways she marketed the school, such as purchasing Internet banner advertisements, improving the website and mailing pamphlets.
We also received a tour of the classrooms, which looked like my elementary school classrooms except that everything was in Chinese rather than in English. I was most struck by how fluently and effortlessly all of the children spoke Mandarin despite the fact that many of them do not come from Chinese-speaking families or Chinese backgrounds. It was amazing to see 4- to 7-year-olds conversing in Mandarin like native speakers. I also loved how YingHua emphasizes an inquiry-based curriculum and exploration of the arts, rather than simply educating students in a set of isolated subject areas.
Before this Princeternship, I felt like I only had vague ideas and ideals to work with when I looked to my future plans. Through my time at YingHua, I was able to actually see concrete actions that must be taken in order to manage an experimental school. The experience has given me a clearer sense of which classes, opportunities and internships I should look into. It also confirmed my impression that the path to my dream will not be a straightforward and easy one. However, seeing the lively and enthusiastic students who are clearly benefitting from the incredible mission of YingHua confirmed my commitment to continue down this path. I am extremely thankful to Kristin for providing such an invaluable and crucial experience that has given me both direction and motivation to move forward.