An Interview with Norman Ye '15

From Shanghai to St. Anne’s-Belfield and Back Again

It’s not every day that you move from one of the most populated cities on the planet to a small college town in a country 7,000 miles away. 

Eleven years ago, Norman Ye, an international student from Shanghai, China, began his journey to a brand new world in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

“Charlottesville is very different from Shanghai, my hometown with 24 million people,” he said.

In August of 2011, Norman started this new path at St. Anne’s-Belfield School, a Pre-School through Grade 12 school with a boarding program option for Grades 9 – 12. 

“I attended St. Anne’s between August 2011 and June 2015,” he said. “After that, I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign…then I went straight to getting a graduate degree in International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.”

During his time at St. Anne’s, Norman would learn not only a lot about the school, but a lot about this unfamiliar country.

“I was pretty curious about the history, culture, politics, and societal aspects of the United States. It’s actually very interesting to be able to learn more about all of it.”

“They were great mentors and friends: knowledgeable, patient, and always supportive,” Norman said of all his teachers. “Some of the classes we had at St. Anne’s are not exactly the easiest, especially if you come in with English as your second language, but the teachers were able to explain them in a systematic and clear fashion. If you have difficulties, their doors are always open for you. They genuinely care about you and want you to succeed.”

But it wasn’t just the teachers who made an impact on Norman.  

“The friendships that I formed were the most valuable things during my experience back there. And the most important thing is that the people there were very genuine and authentic.”

Norman said that, even after ten years, he still regularly keeps up with some of his peers.

A group of men posing for a photoDescription automatically generated“We still talk on a near-daily basis, even if we might be at different corners of the world now. With the boarding students, you see each other every day, and you go through everything together, rain or shine, and that level of bonding lasts.”

Teachers and friends helped form a support system for Norman, who was thousands of miles from home. The Residential Life team, known as “dorm parents” to the students, were another important source of comfort.

“It’s like a family. The dorm parents made St. Anne's-Belfield a place we can call home.”

“I still remember that during my senior year, I caught a flu and was very sick for a couple of days,” he said. “[Upper School Registrar and Dorm Parent] Ms. Van Liew was very attentive and found out that I was not okay, and immediately took me to the doctor’s and got me the medications I needed. It was very heartwarming, especially if you are alone by yourself far away from home.”

Norman is currently a management consultant at the McKinsey & Company’s office in Shanghai, China. It’s clear that Norman has truly excelled in the years following his education. He believes the life lessons learned at St. Anne’s-Belfield are an important contributor to his success.

“Life changing. It was the best four years of my life abroad. I was able to build lifelong friendships that became my most valuable support system.”

“Be a nice person and help others when you can,” he said. “I think St. Anne's-Belfield really emphasized a sense of community, underpinned by integrity and service, which had a huge impact on me.”

“We had an honor code system that penalized wrongdoing, which was important for teenagers at an age when they were forming their values and making mistakes,” he said. “Four years of high school will be a part of who you are, and if the school creates an environment that teaches you to be a genuine person that helps those in need and not to make bad decisions, it will ultimately benefit you tremendously.”

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And while Norman was certainly impacted by the lessons he learned, one of his favorite memories involved a chance for him to give back to the St. Anne's-Belfield community.

“Not being able to make it back to our family during the most important festival in our culture, Lunar New Year, is not the easiest part,” he said. “Hence, some sort of celebration was needed for this special day and to alleviate the homesickness.”

Norman worked with the other residents at the school to create a truly authentic meal and celebration from his home country.

“I wanted to introduce more of Chinese culture to this amazing place, where diversity is being celebrated and protected, and to bring everyone some authentic Chinese cooking” he said. “It was a multi-day effort and a lot of people helped in their free time. The dorm parents, dining staff, and teachers were all extremely supportive and helpful in helping us get groceries and putting this celebration together.”

The turnout was truly amazing. Students, parents, dorm parents, and teachers all joined in on the celebration.

“We had a full cafeteria of guests… the entire community had a great time with some amazing authentic food. It was one of the most memorable moments during my time at St. Anne's-Belfield, seeing the boarding students celebrate a special day, seeing the community learn more about our culture, and everyone having a great time.”

 

St. Anne’s-Belfield School is a Pre-School through Grade 12 school in Charlottesville, Va., with a day-boarding program for Grades 9 – 12. To learn more, contact Associate Director of Upper School Admission Tristan Kishonis (tkishonis@stab.org) or visit www.stab.org/apply/upper-school

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