This post was written by Elizabeth Maxey after her Princeternship. Applications for the Winter 2015 program close on Nov. 3. To apply, visit HireTigers.
During this past spring break, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in a three day long Princeternship at the YingHua International School in Princeton hosted by Kristin Epstein ‘97. The YingHua School is a preschool through 4th grade Chinese-English bilingual school, offering full Chinese Immersion from preschool until Kindergarten and then gradually incorporating English language curriculum into the later years.
Upon entering the school, I saw that it was nothing like what I had imagined. In fact, I had never seen a school like this before. The school is a relatively new one and currently shares a building with a church. Having gone to public school my whole life, a tiny private school is very unfamiliar to me.
The other Princetern and I were given a tour of the school on our first day. We first entered a classroom dedicated to Chinese classes, which cover similar material to what students in the U.S. would study in English classes. Our host showed us the workbooks the students use to practice writing Chinese characters. These textbooks are not for learners of Chinese as a second language, but rather are aimed towards students whose native language is Chinese and are learning to read and write. After a little while, it would become clear to us that these children’s native language might as well be Chinese.
We next entered a classroom where students were learning math. While the math they were doing at times was understandable (math truly is a universal language!), the detailed explanations, the chattering of the students amongst themselves, the chidings of the teacher were all totally incomprehensible to me. But the children showed no signs of struggle. It was amazing to see the versatility of their Chinese ability; regardless of their native language or background, these children were truly fluent in Chinese. Our host noted that the textbooks for math were imported from China, so the students all learn according to the Chinese method, which apparently has a different approach from the one we are familiar with in the United States.
Spending time at the YingHua School has strongly reinforced my preexisting interest in and respect for bilingual education. For the first time, I saw with my own eyes the incredible effectiveness of bilingual education. Conversations with our host, who is an administrator, revealed a side to the YingHua School (and private schools in general) that was not apparent through our observations. I had never realized what struggles were involved in running a school. YingHua is still in development, which means that a lot of effort is focused on expansion. Through our participation in the Princeternship, we witnessed and experienced firsthand the difficulty of finding a new building to house the school, the hardships of making a school into an accredited institution (through joining programs like IB), and the effort involved in publicity and spreading information about the school. Although the challenges of the position were clear, each day at the Princeternship I found myself increasingly interested in the field of school administration. I am grateful to my host and the Princeternship program for giving us this special opportunity.