This week, our reflection comes from Lydia D.!

 Our trip to Shenzhen helped me to realize the true privilege of living in the United States. Living as a white, English-speaking, and upper middle-class citizen of a global superpower has given me innumerable advantages, most of which I was unaware of before traveling to China. One of these advantages is my access to a better education than the majority of the world’s population will ever receive.

Shenzhen Foreign Language School is one of the city’s most competitive schools, and all of our host students are part of its even more competitive English-speaking program, which only admits 100 out of the 1000 total students. The goal of the students in this special program is to attend college in the United States, which is an expectation that most Porter’s girls take for granted. However, the process of being accepted into an American college is much more difficult and strenuous for Chinese students than for American students. And, although the process is difficult, these students are committed to getting the best education possible, which they and their parents believe will be in America.

First, just like all applicants, international students have to take the SAT, and most of our host students attended Saturday classes to prepare, just like American students. But for the Chinese students, the SAT is in their second language, making the standardized test even more difficult for them than for the students whose first language is English. This would be like English-speaking students taking the SAT in Spanish or French. In addition to the SAT, Chinese students must take the TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language. This standardized test measures their fluency in English through listening, reading, speaking, and writing, and their scores will be sent to colleges along with their applications. Students will take classes outside of school and buy practice books to for prepare for this test, just like American students prepare for the SAT. The TOEFL is very similar to any AP Language exam, but Chinese students will take it as soon as 8th grade( for applying to high school in America).

Before getting to know my host student in Shenzhen, I had never considered the privilege of taking the SAT in my first language and not having colleges consider my fluency in English, let alone my nationality and the country that issued my passport, as part of my application. Now that I’ve gotten to know the intricacies of applying to an American school from a non-English-speaking country, I have so much more of an appreciation for international students and their incredible dedication to their education and for my privilege to have such easy access to higher level education in the United States.

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