Yi-Lin Chiang: Thoughts on my stay in Beijing, China


Ph.D student Yi-Lin Chiang describes her recent research trip to Beijing, China:

My eye opening experience in Beijing...

My interest in educational stratification in Chinese societies brought me to Beijing to conduct ethnography and interviews for one year. Living in Beijing is an exciting experience. It is a lively city where the traditional meets the modern, and where individuality connects with the collectivity. But as a newcomer to China, living in Beijing can also be intimidating. The poor air quality, high population density, congested traffic, and culture shock all require a period of adjustment even for city girls like me.

Ethnography in a foreign land allows us to "make the familiar strange and interesting again" [1]  via cross-cultural comparison. Interacting with students in Beijing led me to understand their personal and family input and efforts under the Chinese educational system.  This also gave me the opportunity to better understand their dreams and generic passion to contribute to the country’s development.

The Rooftops of Beijing

I learned that my experiences of being a student in Taiwan cannot be taken for granted; nor is the approach American students take towards education universal. My stay in Beijing has been an eye-opening experience. I am fortunate and grateful to have been accepted into the lives of these high school students, their families, and their teachers.

[1] Erickson, F. 1986. “Qualitative Methods in Research on Teaching.” Handbook of Research on Teaching, M. C. Wittrock Ed. NY: Macmillan.