Beijing native won’t start classes until fall, but she’s already an ambassador for Sweet Briar

This week, the U.S. State Department published an interview with incoming Sweet Briar student Carina Huang (Huang Yingxue). Huang spoke about the College’s Women’s Leadership Program at an EducationUSA event in Beijing. EducationUSA is a State Department network of more than 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries. The network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world.

“Carina joined a panel, sharing her experience about standardized tests preparation, effective English study, and why she chose Sweet Briar,” says the State Department’s Monique Wong, who posted the exchange on an EducationUSA China blog. “Carina has represented Sweet Briar College well before her journey to SBC. Congratulations on your selection process!”

An English translation of the interview follows:

Huang Yingxue 黄映雪 | From Beijing to Sweet Briar College in fall 2016

Huang Yingxue 黄映雪 grew up in Beijing. She went to Iowa after attending one year in high school in Beijing. In Iowa, she was the only Chinese student. She spoke English all the time, which helped her improve her language skills. Since she was on her own, she had to learn to be independent and make connections with people.

Carina Huang speaks about Sweet Briar’s Women’s Leadership Program at an EducationUSA event in Beijing.
Carina Huang speaks about Sweet Briar’s Women’s Leadership Program at an EducationUSA event in Beijing.

A study abroad program agency helped her find a host family in Alameda, Calif. She then studied at Alameda High School, which was about a 10-minute walk from her host family. She really enjoyed her time with her host family. She is thankful for the experience in California, but at the time, she remembers the hard times dealing with loneliness and disappointment on her own.

In this blog, Huang shares her high school experience in California and advice on U.S. undergraduate applications. Huang has been accepted to Sweet Briar College in fall 2016.

Which high school did you attend? Does your school have counselors who help students with overseas college applications?

I graduated from Alameda High School, which is located in California, USA. Our school has multiple counselors who help high school students (especially juniors and seniors) with their college applications. Since California is a state full of international students, and the counselors are very experienced, we can find help easily.

When did you start the application process?

I started at the beginning of my senior year, which was pretty late and I don’t recommend others start in their senior year. Most students in the United States start to prepare for the application process during their junior year. They start to take the SAT test when they are juniors.

International students should prepare for TOEFL at the same time.

Who or what helped you most to prepare your college applications?

My counselor at the school provided many helpful suggestions during the application process, which really made the whole process a lot easier. Also, there were several workshops given by our high school to walk students through the process. Personally speaking, I have found both ways very helpful.

How many colleges or universities did you apply to and how did you select them?

I have applied to quite a few colleges, actually, and I think it is very important to know your own interests and where you will fit in best before making your decision to enter one specific school. There are many factors that influence one’s decision. For example, some students may be interested in going to large cities because there are more opportunities, while others might want to enjoy the wonderful suburbs and choose a school that is away from the city. Students just need to know what they really want and where they can make the best academic achievement. Some students choose their school based on ranking. In that situation, I suggest that students pick several schools that they know for sure they will get into, two to three or more schools that are looking for students just like them, and maybe one or two highly selective universities (e.g. Ivy Leagues) that you might get into if you work hard.

What advice would you give Chinese students about standardized tests?

Although it takes a long time to prepare and study for the standardized tests, they are very important. The first thing universities or colleges will see is the score, and it is one of the main factors for them to select qualified students. Therefore, I suggest students take the tests seriously and spend some time on reading and writing to improve their scores.

Why did you decide to attend Sweet Briar?

Sweet Briar College has a wonderful program called the “Women’s Leadership Program for Chinese Students.” The program is in part driven by the Chinese government’s goal to prepare Chinese women for leadership roles in government, business, industry and education. The program provides a great opportunity during two summer sessions in Washington, D.C. Students explore U.S. government institutions, governmental history, and the political decision-making process, which are leadership elements crucial to the success of a bilateral relationship. I have found this program very exciting and attractive, since it is a great way to gain personal experience and extend my knowledge of U.S. culture. That’s why I have decided to attend SBC.

CarinaHuang2-NewsHorizWhat do you look forward to most about studying in the United States?

I have been studying in the U.S. for a couple of years already, but I believe for many new students the most exciting thing is to explore a different culture and to experience another education system, because everything is so different and seems so exciting.

What do you worry most about studying in the United States?

It is very interesting to find that the answer to the previous question fits perfectly here. Since China and the U.S. are so different in many ways, first-year students normally experience “culture shock.” Unlike Chinese culture, the U.S. culture has great variety and diversity. People who were originally from different countries immigrated and settled down in the United States, and as time went on, the United States has become a country of united cultures. It will take some time for the new students to get used to the differences, but soon they will be fine. Academically speaking, U.S. colleges aren’t what many people have in mind: partying all day and graduating easily after four years. No! The course work in universities is a heavy load.

Students need to focus and do their preparation before entering the classroom and study hard after class in order to get good grades. It is not like Chinese universities where final scores are graded based on how students do on their final tests. The final grades in U.S. colleges are based on many factors, including attendance, participation, homework, quizzes, midterms, essays, final exam and more. The education systems of China and the U.S. are very different, so students should be well prepared before they enter U.S. universities.

Any other advice you would like to share with Chinese students and parents about applying to study in the United States?

Start early. Don’t wait until the very last minute. Stop procrastinating.

Learn to use resources — from the Internet to books, from counselors to current college students.

To decide if you want to spend four years at a school, it will really help to visit the school in person. Do you like the environment? Are the students, teachers and faculty nice? Is it the type of school you have in mind? If not, what’s your better choice? Or what do I dislike about this school? Does it have the facilities I need, such as a gym or track field. Remember to visit the dining halls and the student dorms, if possible. It will really help you to decide. By asking yourself those questions, you will have a better idea if the school meets your needs. If you cannot tell what you want or like, at least you can tell what you dislike about the school. It is easier to make a decision.

College is a lot of fun. Enjoy!

Could you tell me about your experience studying in high school in California? Did you go to California to study by yourself? Would you recommend Chinese students go to high school in the U.S.?

California is a great state to study. It has a wonderful environment and the sceneries there are just too awesome to describe. The people are very nice and thoughtful. They care about each other and are always willing to help. I enjoyed my time there. I went to California by myself but stayed with a host family. I would recommend Chinese students to go to high school in the United States if they are planning to apply to a U.S. college. It is a very great experience and the students will have more time to prepare and be ready for the college environment.