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By Bei Chen, MIA 2013

Horses over Wall.png

"The Day the Wall Came Down" is a sculpture designed by artist Veryl Goodnight.

I am an old second-year student. I was supposed to graduate this May. But I decided to take a year off after finishing my first year and started to work since then. I came back to school recently. I was informed by the director of my program that Bush School has grown a lot. One of my favorite professors even emailed me and said that her class has over 30 students registered this semester, the number was 18 in 2010.

I am very proud of my school and such feeling pushes me to write this article about my thoughts of American education.

Background

I originally come from China. I left my hometown to pursue further studies in Australia when I was 17. And two years ago, I landed in Texas and began my Master’s degree. After staying here for a year, I have to say that American education is very different from China and Australia. But do not worry; it is different in a good way, in a very touching and humane way.

Gratitude

I received a scholarship from Bush School which I feel grateful for and honestly speaking, that’s the main reason drew me from DC to Texas. I remembered, right after the orientation, I received a letter in my mail box. It told me the source of my scholarship. Then I got an email from Mrs. Sally Dee Wade concerning the training of “writing thank you letter”.

In that class, I heard stories lay behind the establishment of some scholarships. The most impressive one was about a boy who still had not entered into college but passed away after a car accident. To realize his dream, his parents donated a certain amount of money and set up that scholarship.

It might surprise you but that was the first time I was taught to express my gratefulness and appreciation for someone in a formal way.

Charity, Volunteerism

Also in the first week, I received another email about volunteering in the food bank during the weekend. I went to the food bank with a bunch of my classmates eventually, and that was my first time to see this organization even though I read a lot about it already. I saw a similar organization in Geneva when I interned with UNCTAD last August, and immediately had an unspeakable feel of amenity to it.

During the entire first year, I kept receiving information in regards to charitable work such as reading story books to kids at primary schools, providing English training to international students, collecting canned food or selling bakeries for the marginalized.

I formed a habit of volunteering in my spare time while I was in Australia but I need to find these information by myself. Instead of looking for such information on my own, the Bush School send them to me on a regular basis.

Economic Development

I decided to engage myself in the area of economic development right after my volunteer experiences with AusAID in the Philippines. I grew strong interest in Microfinance when I took a class taught by a professor who wrote a book on the microfinance institution in Burma. When I was interviewed by Dr. Kishore Gawande on the phone, I told him that I really wanted to take a look at the real microfinance institution, and he said “If you come, I will take you there”.

In the winter break, Dr. Gawande took a group of students to India and, of course, he arranged me to see “Basix” (one of the biggest microfinance institutions in India). I went to the community where Basix serves. I saw borrowers who used the loan to open small manufacturers that produces the holder of lip-stick or used it to build their houses. And that was my first time to see the practice of theories written on the textbook in reality.

America's Global Influence

I worked in Beijing from January to August this year; I found a lot of Chinese graduates who not only work full-time but also actively participate in the community service or the incubation of innovative social entrepreneurship targeting at the disadvantaged in their spare time. They enthusiastically invited me to join them. And not to my surprise, they all finished their degrees in the U.S.

I watched Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech, and I remembered that she mentioned three words: “the oneness of humanity”. Some students come to the U.S for the big name of the universities, for its advanced technologies; but, I think as for me, I came here to get an intangible asset — learn the meaning of “oneness of humanity”.

Before coming here, I was told that I have to study hard to achieve a greater social status, to live a better life, but nobody told me what would happen if I fail in pursuing these goals. Now, I find the answer is that, at least, I can always be a good citizen who is aware of giving and thanking.

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