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Alumni Talk-"Why I'm Grateful to MSB"


The young man we interviewed today spent five full years of his childhood at MSB before moving to Switzerland with his family and is now a 10th grader at College Alpin Beau Soleil in Switzerland.

We got to know him during a short Easter break when he returned to MSB to visit his former teachers. These teachers - Tina, Charles, Helen, and Alice - have been at MSB for over 20 years, witnessing his transformation from a little boy to a confident young man. Each reunion between teachers and students is filled with nostalgia. Although time flies, some surprises are still worth waiting for.

In Montessori education, each step reveals the surprises of a child's growth, as they explore and learn through their senses and environment, and experience the joy of self-discovery. It is hard to believe that the young man sitting across from us is only 16, given his perfect combination of Western temperament and Eastern charm. Every time we talk to him, we cannot help but marvel at his passion for life and his expectations for the future. He loves the I Ching (The Book of Changes), enjoys long-distance running, and his childhood pet was a tropical lizard. He once waited motionlessly for three hours to observe a bird-of-paradise, and loves to explore different worlds. He seems to be forever full of energy and curiosity.

In this article, you will see how the nurturing and education a child receives in their early years can influence their future development. Education and life are complex matters that do not follow a straightforward path, and when it comes to evaluating them, it's not only about the end result but also about the journey that leads to it. As we observe this young man and listen to his account of personal growth, we not only appreciate the benefits of Montessori education, but also resonate with the idea of reaping the rewards of hard work and perseverance over time.

The experiences and thoughts that shape us during childhood are infinite and interconnected, influencing each step of our progress.

MSB Marketing Department


Kevin talks to a teacher during the 2023 Science & Interest Fair.

About the Past

MSB MKT: Hello Kevin, thank you for agreeing to this interview. As you reflect on your five years at MSB, what experience or moment has left the deepest impression on you?

Kevin: The things that really impressed me were the science class and the science fair, and after all these years, I still always think about them, because they were so interesting. I remember my science teacher always had many ways to expand our interest and curiosity in science, and we even had the opportunity to showcase our creative explorations. I remember in one year's science fair, my friend Kevin and I did a chameleon project together. He now lives in Germany and shares the same name as me. At that time, my family had two chameleons as pets, so we decided to make them the theme of our research and delve into it, such as how they change color, how they survive in the wild, what are the specific environmental requirements they need to thrive, and what kind of food they prefer.

At the science fair, I remember introducing and showing my pet to other students and families. I brought my two chameleons to school, and I remember they even fought with each other. Our booth attracted many parents and we felt a great sense of achievement.  

MSB MKT: It sounds really cool. No wonder you can still remember it after so many years. The science and interest fair really inspired many students to develop a keen interest in a specific topic and delve into it in greater depth.

Kevin: Yes, that's right. At the time, we thought our exhibition was the most impressive one, the coolest booth. But unexpectedly, there was an even cooler exhibition downstairs. The other group was showcasing "non-Newtonian fluids", they had set up a speaker and were pouring starch, water, and different substances onto it, observing the changes in the fluid as music played. I thought that was super cool.

Actually, what impressed me the most, in addition to the science fair itself, was the guidance we received from our teachers. They offered suggestions based on our drafts, such as encouraging me to think about the dimensions of the chameleon exhibition, such as biological habits and characteristics. By exploring these dimensions, we were able to uncover a new world of knowledge.


Besides the science fair, I was also deeply impressed by our art class. I recall using yellow clay to create small pottery, which our art teacher Jaime then baked before we painted them. The process was fascinating, and seeing my pottery and the rows of other exhibits gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

MSB MKT: It sounds like you had a very enriching experience at MSB, and many of your interests from that time have continued until now. Could you share with me some of the interests and hobbies that were sparked during your childhood and continue to this day?

Kevin: It might be surprising, but the biggest interest that was sparked in me during my time at MSB and still continues to this day is Chinese culture. My understanding of Chinese culture was fostered through my Chinese classes, taught by Alice Zhang. I remember her teaching us Chinese characters not just as rote memorization, but with an emphasis on the historical context and significance behind each character. She would teach us about the evolution of different script styles, including traditional characters and rare characters. She also taught us the chronological order of different dynasties such as Xia, Shang, and Zhou in Chinese class, which helped us to understand our country's history. For example, I don't have identity issues living abroad because of my knowledge of Chinese history. We would also visit historical sites like the Forbidden City to deepen our understanding of the history. Alice would often share historical anecdotes to pique our interest, like the story of King Zhou's "Wine Pool and Meat Forest". All of this made me deeply curious about Chinese culture and language. Even now, I enjoy reading the I Ching and exploring concepts like Tai Chi, Yin and Yang, and how they relate to the natural world.

MSB MKT: That's fascinating that you enjoy reading the I Ching. Is it a bit difficult to understand for your age?

Kevin: At first glance, it might seem that way, but when it comes to classics like the I Ching, it all depends on the perspective from which you approach it. If you approach it from a high-level academic standpoint, then yes, it can be quite complex. But if you approach it from a basic, everyday perspective, you can still find many interesting insights.

MSB MKT: Now that you are living in Switzerland, do you encounter any cultural conflicts in your daily life?

Kevin: Yes, I do, but I think if someone has a strong sense of identity, they won't feel confused in such cultural conflicts. I enjoy reading books in both Chinese and English, and I also watch videos and movies in both languages for entertainment. Growing up with a strong foundation in Chinese has allowed me to appreciate and understand the content of both cultures.

MSB MKT: There is an expression now called "Perfectly Bicultural" which originated from the media's evaluation of Tiktok CEO Zhang Yiming. I think you are slowly moving in that direction.

Kevin: (laughs) No, no, I'm trying though, haha.

MSB MKT: We have talked a lot about Chinese culture and its influence on you. I am curious, what are your thoughts on your English proficiency? When you first started attending school in Switzerland, did you face any challenges with language barriers?

Kevin: To be honest, my English was not very good when I was in elementary school. The reason was that I used to be a very shy kid with a different personality from what I have now. I didn't have the courage to speak English in public. But I believe that the learning environment at MSB was very helpful in improving my English proficiency. The supportive atmosphere, coupled with the encouragement from teachers, helped me to adjust my grammar and communicate more confidently. I remember that even when I made mistakes in public, the teachers were always there to protect my self-esteem. Over time, I began to overcome my shyness and become more outgoing. Actually, that's how language acquisition works. When you overcome your shyness, you can fully engage in the process of learning a new language. I owe a great deal to my English teacher for her encouragement and support. Thanks to her help, the transition to studying in Switzerland was pretty smooth.

MSB MKT: Which teacher did you like best at MSB?

Kevin: That's a really difficult question, haha. Actually, I like every teacher, let me think... Ms. Gao is one of my favorite teachers. She takes care of us like a mother, and we have a lot in common with her, such as her love for the outdoors and mountain climbing. We call her "Mom Gao", and we know we can always go to her if we're not happy or if we need help with homework. She encourages us and never blames us. She trusts us and gives us a lot of encouragement, which gives us the confidence to pursue our goals. Actually, all the teachers at MSB are like this, always giving us a lot of motivation and support.


About Now

MSB MKT: Let's talk about your present. What are your hobbies now?

Kevin: I am currently very interested in sports, particularly volleyball, football, and basketball.  When I was at MSB, there was one activity that always gave me a headache - cross-country running around the sports field. Despite my best efforts, I could never make it to the top three, which was very frustrating for me.

But it turned out that this experience paved the way for my future. Because now in my school, we are required to run 10 kilometers every semester within an hour to see who is the fastest runner.  The course includes a very high mountain that we start from our school and run to the mountain, sometimes even on snow, so it is quite challenging. Let me show you the recent ranking of our run. Out of approximately 100 participants, I ranked third.

MSB MKT: That's really impressive, your physical and mental endurance are truly commendable, it's not easy at all.  Looking at academics, if you were to give advice to your juniors who are about to study abroad, what would it be?

Kevin: I really enjoy my current learning experience. I think there are two main points to make. The first key skill that I believe is crucial for success in education is the ability to undertake projects.  This is similar to what I mentioned earlier regarding the Science Fair. For instance, in our Pre-IB program, we have a personal project that requires students to think independently and conduct a project from start to finish. This involves several stages, including planning, hands-on work, research, writing, reporting, and evaluation, culminating in a final presentation. The process includes creating a project proposal, developing a product, formulating a thesis, conducting research, and presenting findings. To me, this entire process is reminiscent of the Science & Interest Fair, with similar steps that are smooth, comfortable, and manageable.

The second critical skill is problem-solving. This involves the ability to effectively manage situations when challenges arise, including identifying the root cause of an issue, finding key reasons, and developing strategies to solve the problem. It is also essential to cultivate a mindset of perspective-taking and to be able to think from multiple viewpoints. 

MSB MKT: Besides academics, do you have any other advice or suggestions?

Kevin: In addition to academics, I believe that relationships are also crucial to success. Working collaboratively as a team is particularly vital, which requires speaking kindly, communicating effectively, managing emotions, and showing basic courtesy and etiquette. These values are instilled in us by homeroom teachers when we were young, and Montessori education places a strong emphasis on developing these interpersonal skills.

I recall how our teachers would encourage us to write about our experiences and life in a small notebook, starting from the first grade. They would assist us with unfamiliar words and correct grammar errors. We would write about topics such as 'My Best Friend' and reflect on our lives.  This also challenged us to step out of our comfort zones and push ourselves forward. 


About the Future

MSB MKT: What plans do you have for the future?

Kevin: Regarding my future plans, I am currently focused on attending a university in the U.S. As for my intended major, I have a strong interest in architecture, although I am also drawn to sports and have considered pursuing a career as a professional athlete. There are still many potential paths to explore.

Looking back, I feel deeply grateful to MSB. I believe that at every stage, my teachers have encouraged me to produce an "output". For instance, when learning music from Charles, we would create a beautiful song using the ukulele and perform it in a school concert. Similarly, during the science fair, we were expected to develop a complete project independently. In Jaime's art class, we would create artworks that were worthy of exhibition. And our teacher would guide us through every stage of the process and support us throughout our learning journey. Our Chinese teachers also had specific output requirements and summaries to help us measure our progress.

As I look back on those days, it feels like my education was structured to provide complete skill outputs, one after the other. Many of these skills, such as project thinking, have proven to be directly applicable in my life now. That is why I am truly grateful to MSB.