Before Wang Fengyuan packed for boarding school in the US, the Beijinger searched everywhere without success for tips on how to adjust to his new environment.
So he decided to address the issue himself for future pupils.
The result is The Zeal in Youth: A Boy From China in America, a 400-page book in English and Chinese.
Wang spoke about the book and his American school experiences at a launch party for the book on Wednesday at the Harvard Club in New York.
“From my observation, not only me, also many of my friends, have issues similar to mine, ranging from loneliness to linguistic and cultural barriers,” said the now 17-year-old, who also goes by the name Lincoln.
Wang recalled that before he went abroad, he tried to look for books to prepare for life in America.
“I searched online, I searched in popular bookstores, but I couldn’t find one book that illustrated experiences at American middle schools,” he said.
“So the purpose of my book is to share the problems I faced, the troubles I went through, and the lessons I learned, in order to give my readers reference,” he said.
According to the US Department of Homeland Security, in 2015, the number of Chinese studying at K-12 schools in the US tripled to more than 34,500 over a five-year period.
Wang said that as more Chinese parents send their children to study in the US at younger ages, he believes many if not most of them will face issues similar to what he did.
Wang said the book reflects his actual experiences – it contains homework assignments, comments from his teachers, his grades of three years, “including the awful grades from my first and second year”, Wang said with a chuckle, and some of his high school-application essays.
“I did not hold anything back or make anything up. I hope that the information will be a useful reference for my readers,” he said.
Arriving in a strange land as a shy boy, Wang tried to embrace what the country and the school had to offer.
He attempted to master the English language; he strove to achieve at high levels in his course of study; he rowed on the crew team, played on the football team and was elected captain of the wrestling team.
“No longer a shy, young boy, he left us as an accomplished young man,” wrote David B. Stettler, headmaster of The Fessenden School in West Newton, Massachusetts, where Wang spent three years, in a congratulatory letter.
“Lincoln’s story shares a valuable lesson for anyone considering an opportunity to go to school in another part of the world. Embrace the experience; engage in the unfamiliar; try new things; don’t give up; don’t be afraid to fail – embark on ‘The Zeal in Youth,'” Stettler wrote in the book’s preface.
The Fessenden School, founded in 1903, is an independent boys’ boarding and day school for pre-kindergarten through ninth grade.
China remained the overseas country with most students in US universities in 2016-2017 academic year, according to a recent report by the Institute of International Education, a US nonprofit organization, in partnership with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
A total of 350,755 Chinese students were enrolled at US institutions of higher education in the academic year, up 6.8 percent, keeping China in the top slot for the eighth year in a row. Chinese students make up 32.5 percent of all international students in the United States.