| May 22, 2013
Learning Inside and Outside the Classroom
It’s the kind of trip you see in the movies. Pack your bags, load up the car with bottled water and snacks, and drive ever west into the sun. In Norbu Wangyal’s case, everything he knew of California before then was limited to what he’d seen in the movies. After growing up in nomadic area on the Tibetan Plateau, he’d spent most of his time in the States in Massachusetts and Vermont, first at the International Language Institute in Northampton, then learning English at Boston College, and finally at the SIT Graduate Institute.
After days on a road that seemed to stretch on without end, he and his friends were nearing California when they stopped at a rest area for lunch. A lonely older trucker approached them, set down his lunch box, gave them pointers on what to see in California, and then explained the best way to hunt and cook deer. This kind of experience, Norbu laughs, is not something you could replicate in any classroom. “I learned both inside and outside the classroom. At colleges in China—you always learn inside the classroom. In the States, you go to a party and learn different things. You’re learning the culture,” Norbu adds.
The son of a taxi driver and a middle-school cafeteria cook, Norbu came up in school the way most Tibetans do in Qinghai: At boarding schools, kids and teachers alike wake every morning at 5 for memorization and go to bed at 11 p.m. exhausted. There are no weekends, only long stretches of homework and testing (four per year), broken now and then by seven-day holidays. Even today, while there are many wonderful teachers, schools are also filled with professionals who didn’t make it in medical or military careers and are looking for easy job opportunities. Without formal training, many teachers fall back on the teaching methodology they grew up with, one that stressed testing, memorization, and corporal punishment; they simply don’t know any way but the one they themselves were taught.
And what did Trace Foundation’s support mean to Norbu? “Teaching is a lifetime job. I couldn’t do anything else. After coming to SIT, I’ll be able to teach with an awareness about the influence I make on the students. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without this scholarship.”
Each year, Trace Foundation supports more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses, whether in the People’s Republic of China or abroad. Though we support a select number of fellows like Norbu to study abroad, the core of our funding goes to students domestically and that's where your help will make the biggest difference. With your generous support, we've raised $20,148 for this project since December ($18,648 through GlobalGiving and another $1500 through other donations). We still have a way to go before we reach our goal of $78,000. But when we come together, even small contributions have the potential to make a profound impact: to help us give access to education and transform a generation.
Thank you from everyone at Trace Foundation.