The Story of Rainie | EDUBOSTON

The Story of Rainie

Monday, Jul 16, 2018

I first met Rainie on an EduBoston trip to the Grand Canyon in the great state of Arizona. In a small group of 13 students, she didn’t stand out as the tallest, or the shortest, or the loudest. She was content to go along with the plan, or no plan other than to experience whatever comes. As chaperone, I would have been very happy to have all 13 kids be like Rainie; simply well-behaved, cooperative, and agreeable. Alas, this was not the case and it would have been nice to have fewer “characters” on board. And as it turned out, Rainie’s soft-spoken, demure outward demeanor was anything but boring, as I’d find out on that trip and discovered later in our interview.

Rainie has lots of style; from the top of her hair-tied head to the laces in her shoes. She is a bit shy – or was a bit shy before coming to the US – but this was a product of personality and normalcy, not of fear or social anxiety. Rainie recounted for me the situation of her study abroad beginnings characterized by a severe lack of confidence in her English skills.

“It was really difficult in the beginning because my English was not so good.” She hesitated when I asked her TOEFL score from 2014. Then through nervous laughter she admitted to posting a 48, and quickly amended to include her most recent posting of 101.

“I really struggled with listening and speaking. In China, we spend a lot of time studying vocabulary and grammar and don’t spend much time speaking English.” She quickly added, “My strongest recommendation for hopeful students is to find time to practice speaking and listening every day.”

This segued into a discussion of how her beginner language level complicated things. “It was hard to make friends and communicate with my host family. They were very patient and kind, but I was embarrassed to speak with them.” She then added another piece of advice to new students in America, “At first, I was afraid of talking to others and making friends with both Chinese and American kids. 

Don’t be afraid. Practice English a lot; don’t worry about your ability, just try to communicate. It’s not as stressful to study here as in China. In the first year just focus on the language and make friends. Just do your homework.”

So, tell me Rainie, why UC San Diego? Was that your first college choice?

“No. I got rejected from UCLA. That was my first choice. I probably didn’t meet their requirements or something.”

I told her that could have been why, but there are so many other factors to admissions considerations. UCLA has a high international student population and a huge number of international student applicants. Many times, schools in that position have more qualified applicants than slots to fill. It’s as much demographics as qualifications. Rainie was also accepted to Boston University, Penn State., Indiana University, and University of California at Davis. It’s doubtful that she lacks qualifications.

Rainie then shared with me the challenges of applying for college, and the deliberate steps she took to prepare. She first mentioned how helpful her school guidance/college counselor was in the process. 

“I wrote a lot of essays – maybe 10. Some I was able to recycle. Cardinal Spellman academics were good for college. I took 5 AP courses and one was a virtual class; BC Calculus. I think my GPA is a little above 3.5. The teachers are all very nice and very smart. What I’m most proud of is starting a club. I found a teacher to sponsor a ping-pong club and it was really popular. There were more than 30 kids at the start! Because school ends early in the day, we have a lot of time to do activities and social service, art, and writing.”

There was a major social adjustment for Rainie between her sophomore and junior years. She had to change host families. She assured me that there wasn’t any big problem; that it just needed to happen. She liked her first host family, and her second. Each was very different from the other with her last family being originally from Brazil. The food and culture took some time to get used to, but because her communication skills were so good by then, she was able to meet the challenge without much disruption. She believes it was a great growth experience for her. 

She also wants new international students to understand the importance of having a good relationship with their host family. It takes work, but that’s well worth the effort. “The better your English, the easier it is. Spend time with them and do some activities. It will help you become more comfortable, and they will be too.”

Rainie had a few EduBoston Program Managers come in and out of her life. She liked all three of them and says, “They were very helpful. I think I’ll probably send updates on my progress at college.”

For this gentle girl now overflowing with confidence, her professed greatest accomplishment is being content with finishing this first step. “I’m very happy. This is just the beginning. I really didn’t think I’d do this well. I used to worry a lot.” Now, she can spend some of her summer relaxing and reading and “California dreaming” about snow-free winters and warm sea breezes. She’s open to the idea of taking up surfing or golf and embracing the Southern California lifestyle. It’s a slower paced environment well-suited for her calm spirit and curious, quiet affinity for discovery.

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