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Lily Guo, founder, GATE, China

Lily Guo is the founder of a successful education counselling business in China. She spoke to The PIE about the evolution of GATE, which helps place Chinese students in institutions overseas but is also opening up bilateral channels from the West into China.


Photo: The PIE News

"Chinese students will look shy...because this is the culture. This doesn’t mean that students don't care or that they don't want to learn"

The PIE: How did you decide to work in this industry?

LG: I graduated from a university with a teaching degree. I started my teaching 20 years ago and I noticed that education in China still needed to improve in many fields. So that’s why I hope now that I can help more Chinese students to get a better education.

In China now, internationalisation is considered very important, not only by the students but by all the Chinese people. The Chinese government also realised that internationalisation will really help to improve many things in China: first of all education, of course. We should learn from the rest of the world. Chinese students as you know they also like to study or work in other countries. China now is open.

“For most Chinese students, the family really cannot afford an international experience…but they still need to have this opportunity”

The PIE: Where did you learn English? In China, or did you study abroad?

LG: I come from a very poor family so I couldn’t imagine studying abroad. So that’s why I had to study in China. And after my graduation, I started to work in an international company – that was my opportunity.  For most Chinese students, the family really cannot afford an international experience. But they still need to have this opportunity. Even just a weekend. I really hope that I can help them at least a little to open their eyes to the world, not just their local city.

The PIE: Where did you go the first time you went abroad?

LG: In the US. I landed in San Francisco and I thought “Oh my God. This is really San Francisco. It’s not just in my mind!”

I thought there would be many high buildings like New York or Beijing, or Shanghai. But I just saw many houses and not many high apartment buildings compared to Beijing. I thought: “That’s not America.” Later on, I realised that this was the real America. You don’t need to build so many high apartment buildings as you don’t have that huge population and you have enough land. So I just realised it’s different!

The PIE: Which institutions do you feel are the best for Chinese students, in terms of the support they offer them?

LG: I find some institutions especially in California because they are very diverse and they know more about international students, so they really help students overcome culture shock. In China, we have more than two thousand years of history. Our country is quite different from other countries. And families help the young generations to know about our culture and we respect our parents and the older generations.

And so that’s why Chinese students will look shy. Most of the time, they just keep their mouths closed, because this is the culture. You cannot just challenge the parents or the older generation. So this doesn’t mean that students don’t care or that they don’t want to learn. This is just their culture.

But now Chinese schools are trying their best to encourage the students to open their mouths and ask their questions.

We are also helping our students. We set up some courses on critical thinking skills – what critical thinking should look like and how can they use it to learn. It’s important that institutions overseas understand Chinese students, but it’s also important that we help them.

“Education at least should be an area where Trump doesn’t close the door, because education is international”

The PIE: Have you seen a change in the destinations Chinese students want to go to?

LG: Before we had more students going to the UK, Australia and New Zealand. But I think 13 or 14 years ago, American institutions started to open their doors to the Chinese students. After that, more and more Chinese students started to choose the US as the main destination. But still, we have many students choosing other destinations.

The PIE: Are you concerned that the US will become less. popular because of Trump?

LG: Yes, to a certain extent. But I think education at least should be an area where Trump doesn’t close the door, because education is international.

The PIE: Are you also sending American students into China?

LG: This is our plan. We really hope that because now we have more US institutions that partner with us. So they are expecting not just to recruit the students from China but to advance their internationalisation.

Internationalisation is bilateral, so that’s why they really hope that we can open opportunity also for their students here in China.

The PIE: How many students do you work with now?

LG: We work together with the institution in China. So our students, while studying in China most of the time they will spend a short time, half a year to one year, in the US. So now we work with than 3,000 students. The number is increasing very quickly because we have more and more partner institutions in China.

We are focusing on university or college-level students. And now we are also helping the Chinese institutions to become more ‘applied’. That means that they need industry partners, so we help to build up the bridge between the institutions and the industry. Many companies and HR people also like to hire our students because they are more hands-on. They know how to use and apply the knowledge they have learnt.

“We work with than 3,000 students – the number is increasing very quickly”

The PIEWhat are your hopes for the next few years of your business?

LG: I really hope that we can partner with more Chinese institutions and US institutions, but perhaps because of the political situation we have to choose and maybe also find some resources from Europe. In Europe now they are more open to China and to the Chinese.

But I really hope that the US can keep the doors open. I also feel that America has already been important for so many years and we have a lot of friends here. And I really hope that I can help both sides so that the two have a better understanding of each other. And help the Chinese students and US students to learn more about each other and build up their relationship.

China is open to welcome US students and for them to learn about our culture and our history. And people, most of the people, are warm-hearted and friendly. So you know, Chinese students can be friends of US students. Maybe both of them can be more open.

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