A lot of people ask me, what is a 19-year-old American doing in Beijing? Well, let me introduce myself. My name is Madisen Siegel. After graduating from Deerfield Academy I decided to spend one year living and studying in Beijing before attending Columbia University. I have spent most of the year taking Mandarin classes at Beijing Language Culture University (BLCU – 北京语言大学) and tutoring English. For the past two months I have also been interning at ESC.
After adjusting to the initial culture shock of being in China and the daunting size and population of Beijing, I’ve greatly enjoyed my time here. Throughout my year here I’ve been able to explore the hidden gems of this big city. Some of my favorite parts are WuDaoKou (the university area) and Gulou . Living in Beijing, I’ve been able to meet interesting, talented people and engage in a rich culture very different from that at home.
I first heard about ESC through my college counselor at Deerfield. I was intrigued by the company’s mission: helping Chinese students apply to colleges in the U.S. As someone who recently went through the college application process, I understand how daunting the task can seem, even without the hindrances that come with being an international applicant and facing cultural differences once on campus. The more international classmates I’ve talked to, the more I’ve realized how distinct the American education system is. Americans often take for granted the freedom undergraduate students have and flexibility of major choice. It’s exciting to be interning at a company that recognizes these unique qualities.
My experience at ESC has been very rewarding. Although I don’t interact with students much, I see how much the counselors care about their students. The counselors are dedicated to their students; in addition to academics or the application process, ESC counselors care about their students, and, I believe, help them become the best versions of themselves.
My favorite ESC memory is our monthly birthday parties. Once a month, all of Team ESC gathers in the dining room for a snack, and we collectively celebrate everyone who had a birthday in that month. It brings everyone together for a half an hour of fun and banter, and I love the tradition.
During my time at ESC I’ve worked on projects ranging from translating blog posts to standardizing high school names to teaching students about stereotypes of humanities and STEM majors. Through ESC I have been introduced to data compilation and analysis, developed my writing skills, and seen how a start-up company in China functions, It is amazing to see how an entrepreneurial spirit inspires every person in the workplace. I am excited to take this new skills and experiences with me to Columbia.