Moments to Remember: The Learning Journey from BRS to NCSU by Min Li

Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Do you remember the moment when we arrived in the United States?

Every year Beijing Royal School sends teachers to study or work in the U.S. This year eight of us flew from Beijing to become full-time students at North Carolina State University (NCSU). We will obtain our masters degrees in education after one year, majoring in New Literacies and Global Learning.

We have been here now for over two months. I still remember the day, August 6th, when I said goodbye to my dear family and headed for NCSU. Along the way, I kept imagining what my life would be like. After twelve hours flying, we landed in Chicago, where we then transferred to Raleigh. We were more excited than tired. We looked at everything. Every sign was written in English. People with different skin colors hurriedly walked through the airport corridors. People communicated in English. At that moment, we realized that we arrived in the U.S.

Do you remember the moment of visiting the NCSU campus and attending orientation?

The Bell Tower on NCSU Campus
International Student Orientation

After arriving in Raleigh, we immediately visited the NCSU campus, where we would start our learning journey. Everything was fresh to us, the clear blue sky, the green grass, the red-brick buildings, and the famous Bell Tower all took our breath away. I was impressed by the D.H. Hill library, which provides access to books, technology, and any facilities or assistance needed by students for studying.

In order to help new students familiarize themselves with the campus and their program, NCSU offers various orientations. At the International Student Orientation, I met many students from different parts of the world, which reminded me of the United States being called a “melting pot”. Diversity in cultures and languages is a feature particular to U.S. society.

Do you remember that moment of “Cultural Competence”?

Upon our arrival, Dr. Ivonne was so kind to hold a welcome reception for BRS teachers. Thanks to her, we came to know and use Weebly to record our thoughts and life at NCSU. This past Thursday, we went to Dr. Ivonne’s first class. She talked about the various cultural competences: emotional, analytic, behavioral, creative/imaginative, and functional. This was the first time I had heard these inspiring ideas. Emotional competence refers to the motivation and ability to open oneself to divergent cultural influences and experiences. Analytic competence is the ability to link a counterpart country’s conditions to one’s own circumstances. Behavioral competence refers to proficiency in and use of one’s counterparts spoken or written language. Creative and Imaginative competence includes the ability to foresee diverse cultural perspectives when problem solving. Functional competence refers to the ability to relate to counterparts and to develop and maintain positive interpersonal relationships across cultures. We will learn and experience more about these ideas in her class this semester.

Do you remember the moment of warm discussion?

All of us are now studying hard. Before class, we read the assignment materials and get ready for a class discussion. The picture above was taken in Dr. Spires’ class. We were actively discussing the connection between our observations from a middle school and Li’s account of western learning. Dr. Spires creates a pleasant and open learning environment, encouraging us to think and share our ideas. We not only learn from the instructor and books but also from each other. So far for this class, we have finished reading and discussing the book written by Jin Li, Cultural Foundations of Learning: East and West. Discussions lead to deeper understanding of the distinctions between the Western mind model and the East Asian virtue model of learning. The former aims to develop the mind to perceive the world, while the latter intends to perfect one’s self morally and socially. We also talked about learning process, learning affect, and parents’ guiding efforts. It is necessary for us to know these learning models in the age of globalization. Dr. Spires has introduced us to plenty of cool technologies to use in our future teaching. For example, Animoto is an easy way to make professional-quality videos, and Padlet is an easy way to share ideas and collaborate.

Lucy’s farm in Sparta
Lake Crabtree in Raleigh

Do you remember that moment of being close to nature?

On the weekends our dear instructors and BRS’s NC office often arrange trips and outdoor activities. We went to Lucy’s farm on the weekend of Aug.16. It is a peaceful mountain on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. Climbing the mountain, boating, and attending a bonfire party gave me a beautiful memory. On Mid-Autumn Day, Dr. Ivonne invited us to Lake Crabtree. We met her family and learned boating, kayaking and sailing. This was the first time for many of us to try sailing and we were so excited. It was a Mid-Autumn Day and Hong Cheng told the folktale of how this festival came into being. Dr. Ivonne and Ruohan were so considerate that they brought Chinese traditional moon cakes for us. We spent a nice weekend and a special Mid-Autumn Day.

We live near a park, Lake Johnson, which is a good place for walking and running. It is five minutes’ walk from our apartments. We take a walk or run around the lake whenever we want to. Some of our teachers persist in doing exercise every day. Staying in the U.S., you can find that people here love to exercise, you can see them running any time of the day. It’s important to keep a balance between study, work and health.

How time flies! Two months have passed. For me, I don’t feel lonely but rather I feel at home. We all live in the same neighborhood and three or four of us share an apartment. We used to be colleagues while now we are classmates, roommates, friends and a family. The apartment provides us convenient living facilities, and our foreign neighbors are very friendly to everyone. They always greet you, whether they know you or not, and I see smiles on everyone’s faces. The many joyful moments we have shared will be unforgettable for us. We are enjoying learning, experiencing life, and feeling the American culture. This is a brand-new beginning for us. Although there are challenges and difficulties, we are ready to welcome and to overcome them. We look forward to that day when we will be able to bring what we have learned back to our students, and develop them into international learners and professionals that create special moments of their own.


Min Li