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[中学] A Journey to the West: from China to Cambridge and Stanford.

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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-13 15:33:54 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

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本帖最后由 老姚 于 2018-07-18 03:02 编辑

http://ajourneytothewest.co.uk/

Why am I writing about my story as a student?

I am an economist by education and a finance guy by work. Therefore, isn’t it a bit sad that I was never remembered as such but mostly by all the stories I told?

After I graduated from Stanford Graduate School of Business, a classmate approached me suggesting I put a talk I gave at Stanford into an article as he liked it too much. The talk of course was not about economics or finance but my experience navigating through the educational system in China, UK and then US. The experience was a painful one to me but a painfully funny one to my classmates. They loved it and so seemed the general readers from the popularity of the article I eventually wrote for the American Affairs journal. It was even mentioned by the site RealClearPolitics although it had little politics in it.

But it is OK and I have a big heart. I know I am never going to anywhere close to my hero Warren Buffett anyway: I started compounding too late, unlikely to live as long and my rate of return was too low. The only places I can match him are the love for Coke, rejection from Harvard Business School and the desire to be remembered as a teacher. So if I can share my experience in my education journey rather than in investing or economics, that works for me as well.

So here you go, my journey from China to the UK and later on going west again to California. If you are the few who can learn things simply by reading others’ mistakes, thanks for reading this and the pleasure is all mine. However, if you, like me, could only learn after making the mistakes yourself, I hope you could at least have a similarly amusing experience. Life offers plenty of challenges and we might as well enjoy them.
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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-13 15:37:02 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 老姚 于 2018-07-18 03:02 编辑

http://ajourneytothewest.co.uk/

As background information, the education system in China consists six years of primary school, three years of middle school, three years of high school followed by four years of university. Admission into middle school can be either by location or by exam if the school is selective; admission into high school is through city wide exam; and admission into university is through country wide exam.

Monday 01 September 1997, Middle School Year 1, Shijiazhuang, China

It was the first day in my middle school, not the most desirable one in the area by the way, but not the worst one neither which was my original destination. To save me from such fate, my parents offered a small donation to this new school which just opened, and I was duly offered a place (which I now realize is a solution that works almost universally). Although they might feel their money was wasted when the desired school somehow acquired the worst school later on, luckily the general price level in China back then was still low, so the amount involved was small.

As I collected my textbooks for the new term, I was amazed by the wide range of subjects there were, both in natural science and social science. One of them, had “English” written in Chinese on the cover, a word I had never came across before. “What is this thing called English” I asked my desk mate. This was fascinating, I felt like Columbus who just discovered North America.

“That is the language they speak in England, I think.” he replied.

“Really? I thought everybody spoke Chinese? Is there really another language out there?” I had just watched Star Wars Episode IV on TV that summer. Not only Skywalker, Darth Vadar, but also the aliens there spoke Chinese. Not to mention, I had never met anyone who didn’t speak Chinese in my life, and being born in a city in China, I had met or at least seen a few millions of people.

“It looks like they use Pinyin as well.” I continued to comment as I flipped through a few pages of the book. It was still years away till I found out Pinyin was the romanization of the Chinese characters rather than proof that everybody on earth spoke Chinese. The shock doubled when I found out A New Hope was not made in 1997 neither but 1977.

Not being aware any of these, I gave my final verdict: “So it must be just a different dialogue they speak there but still Chinese. And it seems they make a lot of spelling mistakes, none of them makes any sense. They should label it the birds’ language” (In Chinese, the word English has the same pronunciation as birds’ language.)

And this was the beginning of my interaction with English as a language.

Score: Me: 1, English: 0
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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-13 15:39:11 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 老姚 于 2018-07-18 03:01 编辑

http://ajourneytothewest.co.uk/

Tuesday 29 June 1999, Middle School Year 2, Shijiazhuang, China

The biggest enemy of any child in China was some neighbour’s child. That child supposedly always obeyed every single word of her parents without a slice of doubt; her life’s joy came from doing homework and doing homework only; even if you give her comic books to read, or a TV to watch, she would simply ignore them and go back to her calling: homework. And of course, she ate well, went to bed early and woke herself on time without saying.

No matter how hard you tried, she always got (much) better grades; she not only participated in competitions you did’t even realize that existed but also won them easily; she played either piano or the violin or quite possibly both; she was the head girl in her class and won numerous Student Awards every ear. Not sure about you, but I didn’t even work that hard back then which made it even worse.

So one good thing about not going to the desirable school, especially when all the other children in my middle-rise building went there, was that it gave me two years’ of armistice. After all, it was very hard to compare grades from one school to another. Although my parents rightfully suspected that the desirable school had tougher grading guidelines than my school, it was something I categorically denied, time after time.

The war started again after a city-wide exam at the end of the second year of my middle school:
“How come you only got 80%? What is the average in your class? I heard the average in the desirable school is at 85% and a large number of students got more than 90%. You know you will be competing with them in the graduation exam in a year’s time, don’t you?”
“How do I know the average for my class, mum! I am not the class tutor. How did you know the average for the desirable school anyway?”
“I know the average of every school, as a matter of fact. I think your school’s average is only 70%, that is very worrying. Would you ever be able to beat our neighbour’s child?”
“Easy, next time we move, just let me pick who our neighbours are!”
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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-13 15:40:02 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 老姚 于 2018-07-18 03:01 编辑

http://ajourneytothewest.co.uk/

Tuesday 12 October 1999, Middle School Year 3, Shijiazhuang, China

Our class tutor came into the classroom with a piece of paper in her hand and the room immediately fell silent. The paper contained the results from the latest mock exams. The practice of having mock exams started with the city which was going to conduct three city-wide mock exams in the two months before the final middle school graduation exam at the end of the year.

To stay one step ahead of the curve, my school implemented its own monthly mocks as soon as our third and final year of the school began. However, the rumour was that in the desirable school, such monthly examination had been going on since the begging of the second year already. No wonder they did so much better last year in the city-wide exam! Cheaters.

The most significant aspect of the result was that it also determined everyone’s seating for the coming month till the next mock. Our teacher would announce the grades in front of the whole class, starting from the first all the way till the last. Whoever heard her result need to step outside the class room and form a line in that order. Once the whole class was outside, the first in the line, i.e. who came top in the exam, could come back in and pick her seat for the coming month. And the next, etc.

As the choice would be final and could not be changed, once people got in the line, information gathering and seats trading started immediately. On top of trying to fulfil one’s preference to sit either very close to or far away from the blackboard as possible, there were also these important considerations:
•        The few seats by the front door where you cannot see half of the blackboard but the teachers would see you immediately after coming into the room were to be avoided at all cost;
•        At this time of the year (winter), the seats next to the radiators should be avoided as it was inevitably too hot sitting there. In the summer though, they would become great seats as they were next to the windows;
•        Half of the classroom were exposed to the apartment building where our class tutor lived. She sometimes checked on us from home during our evening studying session.
•        The naughty boy somehow did very well in the exam this time and probably would get his favourite seat in the middle of the second row, so better to avoid the area altogether.

Is it a coincidence that several people from the class ended up in the real estate business? As they say, it is all about location, location and location.
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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-13 15:41:41 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 老姚 于 2018-07-18 03:01 编辑

http://ajourneytothewest.co.uk/

Friday 19 November 1999, Middle School Year 3, Shijiazhuang, China

It was the widely anticipated music class! We have only two of them per week in contrast of four or five for the core subjects. But the excitement was not because my class had any particular talents or even interests in music itself. In fact, just one or two out of the whole class could play an instrument at amateur level. But as a subject that is not in the graduation exam and therefore in none of the mocks neither, it is a class both the teacher and us could enjoy in a relaxed way, without either homework or pressure for grades. It was exactly what we needed on a Friday, especially given Saturday had been turned into a school day since the beginning of Year 3.

Therefore when our Chinese Literature teacher stepped into the classroom a few minutes before the bell instead of the music teacher, the energy level in the room visibly dropped. And the hope for the last-minute appearance of the music teacher was finally broken when the Chinese teacher announced that she had borrowed this session from the music teacher to go through the last monthly mock exam we did.

This was a common practice amongst the core subject teachers so that more testable knowledge could be squeezed into us during the limited hours of school days, the only surprise that day was a response from a brave soul at the back of the classroom: “when are you planning to return it, Miss?”
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八品主薄

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发表于 2018-7-13 16:06:54 | 显示全部楼层
哈哈,记得第一个选位置的荣耀,也记得体育课,美术课,音乐课被霸占的愤怒。
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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-14 05:33:26 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 老姚 于 2018-07-18 03:01 编辑

http://ajourneytothewest.co.uk/

Wednesday 15 March 2000, Middle School Year 3, Shijiazhuang, China

All five hundred students of the the graduating year was called into the school auditorium for a meeting with the headmaster. The headmaster started by asking whether any of us knew the significance of today. After it was met with silence from the audience, she gave a hint, how many days were there till the graduation exam? I quickly raised my hand and answered one hundred.

The headmaster was very impressed and asked the whole year to learn from my attention to details. She then went on and gave a speech on why we should double our effort in these remaining 100 days: our fate literally would hang on it. In China’s system where grades were everything, one had to do very well in it to get into a good high school. Otherwise, the chance of going to a good university would be lost already. There was just no other way.

When we went back to our classroom, our class tutor praised me again and insisted that I should share with the class how I managed to keep account of the days and whether I had a detailed study plan for these 100 days already etc.

After a few attempts to dodge the question failed, I finally had to give in to her and said apologetically: I knew the dates well because the graduation exam happened to fall on my birthday, so it was hard not to know the numbers.
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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-14 17:33:39 | 显示全部楼层
liu7 发表于 2018-07-13 16:06
哈哈,记得第一个选位置的荣耀,也记得体育课,美术课,音乐课被霸占的愤怒。

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乘风破浪♥夏夏♥(版主)

发表于 2018-7-14 17:40:11 | 显示全部楼层
今天班上空下来慢慢读,前排占座
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 楼主| 发表于 2018-7-15 17:18:08 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 老姚 于 2018-07-18 03:01 编辑

http://ajourneytothewest.co.uk/

Friday, 23 June 2000, Middle School Year 3, Shijiazhuang, China

The days of Middle School Graduation Exams and High School Graduation Exams were always made quite a scene. The fact that more than 100,000 students and similar number of parents would participate in each of these was no big deal by itself as lots of events in China had that kind of scale. The entertainment was really provided by the superstitious clothing worn by the students and their parents on the day.

Amongst the students, Nike was by far the most popular dress choice on the day. Its clothes and accessories with the red Swoosh logo were highly desirable given its close resemblance of a correct check mark. In fact, from the young boys’ and girls’ dressing, you would think the day was for a basketball tournament rather than anything else. Even so, one boy I met still managed to outshine everyone else by wearing Nike T-shirt, shorts, socks, headband, wrist band and trainers on top of carrying Nike bag and water bottle all with big red Swoosh sign. Although I could not verity it, I had no doubt his underwear must be of the same style as well.

The parents, on the other hand, were much more diverse. A large proportion showed up in traditional Chinese dresses. It is believed the traditional ladies’ dress, “Qipao” meant “hitting the ground and immediately winning” while the traditional gent’s dress, “Magua” meant “winning instant success”. Some others put more emphasis on the colour rather than the type of their clothes: they would accompany their children to the place in red, switching to green later in the day and wrapping up in grey and yellow. These colours supposedly mean: good start, green light all the way and finishing in glory. Of course, there were always the odd few who would show up in various costumes ranging from ancient examination champion to modern day Superman.

I was glad my parents believed in none of these, otherwise it would be too embarrassing. My dad simply passed me the pen that always brought the good fortune to the family, told me that would be more than enough and waved me off from home.
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