Chinese Students Adjust to American Education When East meets West, differences abound

Rich Barlow:

Lili Gu recalls his initial trepidation at the flood of white faces in his Massachusetts high school when he came to America for 10th grade. There was the hulking football player who noticed that Gu was lost one day and said–here, Gu speaks in a guttural half-grunt–“‘Hey, you want to go to the gym?’ And I’m like, dude, is this guy going to rob me?” He struggled with English, too. The writing skills he arrived with, he says, would be at home in the fourth grade. But an English-as-second-language program made him comfortable after a semester. Then his formidable Chinese secondary education kicked in.
Gu (ENG’13) says he breezed through high school, especially math, sprinting through the curriculum and into Harvard night school for advanced calculus. The easy ride ended at BU, however. If Chinese high schools are more rigorous than those in the United States, the reverse is true for universities, Gu says. Back home, “as soon as you step in the front door of a great university, it’s almost like your motivation ends, because in China, GPA is not a big deal. Whether I’m a C student or D student, as long as I have that diploma, I’m awesome. If I wanted to graduate from BU with Cs, I’d probably have had a very good time.”