Not many people get the opportunity to immerse themselves into multiple cultures in their lifetime- let alone in high school. However, former student and would-be senior Mei Yuzuki has experienced schooling, culture and socializing here in America and in Beijing.
Yuzuki was studying abroad in Beijing for this academic year with the Department of State on full scholarship. The scholarship is called National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), and aims to promote critical language learning among American youth. Yuzuki found out about the scholarships when she was in Qingzhou two summers ago.
NSLI-Y is a nationwide competitive scholarship that requires an extremely extensive application. It takes several essays to reach the semifinals, and then an interview that Yuzuki did in D.C.. The application follows roughly the same timeline as early college applications, so the essays were due on Halloween. “Mr. Lighstey and Mrs. Pollin were incredibly supportive and helpful through the applications process. I could not have done it without them,” Yuzuki said.
Yuzuki left for Beijing in late August. The program was meant to run from September to May. However, due to the current outbreak of the Coronavirus the Department of State and the Center for Disease Control decided to send all study abroad students in mainland China home. At the end of February, Yuzuki will go to Taiwan for four weeks to finish up the program as the ending was so abrupt.
One difference Yuzuki noticed between schooling in China compared to America was the importance of school events. “It was adorable how intensely Chinese high schools take their school events. For a track and field event, they invited political officials to see the opening ceremonies and the talent show required months of rehearsals,” Yuzuki said.
Yuzuki and her fellow students were kept on a strict schedule- wake up at 6:10 a.m., class for eight hours, two hours of free time, then mandatory study for two hours and finally lights out at 10:10 p.m.. “It wasn’t until the last month of the program that we actually got free time to explore,” Yuzuki said.
On weekdays students stayed in dorms and then on weekends they lived with host families. The host families were scattered throughout Beijing and, because of the State Department’s emphasis of cross culture communication and exchange, there was not a lot of time to hangout and explore.
During her enrollment at Beijing No. 80 High School as a language student, Yuzuki was able to see various aspects of China. She went to the Great Wall of China and was able to climb it, visited the Olympic Stadium during the 70-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and attended the World Expo Fair.
Yuzuki has always had interest in foreign cultures and policy. While here, she was active in Model U.N.. She also did a program called Reischauer Scholars Program, an online class run by Stanford on East Asian history. Yuzuki took the course on modern Japanese history. Sophomores. juniors and seniors can apply, and it is one semester long.
In the future, Yuzuki hopes to join the foreign service. She wants to continue to be involved with U.S.-China relations and foreign policy in East Asia in general.