Ally An: It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity


Elena Erdekian

[monoslideshow id=”231″] Photos courtesy of Ally An.

While most Wayland High School freshmen were transitioning from middle school to high school, sophomore Ally An transitioned to a foreign country across the globe her freshman year.

Instead of starting ninth grade at Wayland High School, An decided to spend the year at the High School Affiliated with Renmin University of China (RDFZ). RDFZ is a prestigious public high school in Beijing.

An was planning to attend WHS but made the last minute decision to go to China at the end of her summer going into high school. She was on a summer trip to China and was teaching English as a volunteer at RDFZ over the summer. The principal of the school invited An to attend the school for a year.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” An said. “I would never have the chance again.”

During the school weeks, An stayed in a dormitory at the school. On the weekends, she lived on her own in an apartment owned by her family in Beijing.

“I just loved the city life — living by myself and being able to go home to my own apartment. I loved being able to cook, doing stuff with my friends and going out at night. It was just really fun,” An said.

According to An, one of the biggest differences between RDFZ and WHS is the clothing. Like the Chinese exchange students who came to Wayland, the students at RDFZ wear uniforms.

Another drastic difference between the two schools is the academics. An found RDFZ to be more challenging and fast-paced, and there was also more school work. In just one year, students would transition from algebra to pre-calculus. Although it was more academically demanding, students were given more independence.

The biggest struggle for An was the language barrier. It was often difficult to understand what her classmates and teachers were saying.

“It was good because it was an immersion that forced me to speak Chinese and really use the language,” An said.

An also struggled adjusting to the culture change. According to An, the subways are very different in China. They were sometimes so crowded that An’s feet couldn’t touch the ground, and she couldn’t move because she was surrounded by people.

Although adjusting to the culture change was difficult, An had a positive experience. She enjoyed learning the new culture and familiarizing herself with Chinese life.

“I found my group of people, and it was fun. I hung out with a lot of the other international kids who came to China from other parts of the world,” An said.

According to An, living in the city was much different from the suburbs of Wayland.

“You could go out and get lunch and go shopping. You could go around on the subway and get in a taxi. We didn’t really have to rely on parents for giving us a ride or ask them for permission. It was fun,” An said.

Throughout the trip, An learned many life lessons. She learned to be more open and not judge people at first glance.

“I definitely would go back if I could. I loved it there. Of course, the beginning was hard, but I really did have a good time,” An said.