04 Aug, 2017
10 : 00
As the summer holidays come to a close and families prepare for a fresh start and a new year of school, we’d like to take a moment to share a special interview with Sara Wramner-Wang, Assistant Admissions Manager at Yew Chung International School of Beijing.
A 22-year veteran expat in China and mother of a Year 4 daughter at YCIS, Sara offers helpful tips and tricks for families new to the capital city, as well as shares her own experience as a mother seeking the best education in Beijing for her daughter (she contacted 72 schools during her search).
The depth and uniqueness of Sara’s perspective pale only to the colour and warmth of her personality. To contact Sara for questions about your own son or daughter, or to hear more stories and tips regarding life in Beijing, please give her and our admissions team a call anytime.
1: Could you please introduce yourself and your role at YCIS Beijing?
My name is Sara Wramner-Wang, and I’m the Assistant Admissions Manager at YCIS Beijing. I’m originally from Sweden, though I consider myself a Beijinger as well, having lived here for 22 years! My husband is from Beijing, and my daughter, Emma, is a Year 4 student here at YCIS Beijing.
2: What originally brought you to Beijing?
As a young girl, my parents often travelled to Asia for business – so I grew up with stories and photos of delicious food, warm people, and exotic landscapes. I grew fascinated with Asia from an early age. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I completed several masters programmes – one of which is in East Asian Business. I moved to China to complete the final year of the programme in Sichuan, and have been in China ever since.
3: What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job at YCIS Beijing?
I actually first visited YCIS Beijing as a prospective parent and not as a member of the admissions staff. So, like other new families, we went through the difficult process of trying to find the best fit for our daughter. Every school has unique strengths and focuses, and every family has their own wish lists. There’s an overwhelming number of choices in Beijing (we contacted 72 schools, both local and international), and because your child is the most important thing in your life, parents feel a great deal of pressure to choose wisely.
As a family, we had our own selection criteria. My husband’s primary focus was that Emma could equally advance her English and Chinese skills, so we needed an excellent Chinese programme. My concerns were everything else – literally everything! I was concerned with assuring the school had excellent leadership, quality and dedicated teachers, a positive and familial environment, and of course a strong curriculum. We quickly realized that YCIS Beijing was a wonderful fit for our family.
But it’s because of this experience – being first on the parent-end of the admissions discussion – that I love helping families find their own best fit. And when I say “best fit”, in some cases that may not be YCIS. The first thing I do when speaking with new families is to ask that if they could clarify exactly what they're looking for. If we offer what they seek, then I'll promptly show them all the reasons that they'll love YCIS Beijing (including from my own personal experience). But if we find that parents' and schools' values and objectives don't align, then it’s best for everyone to openly acknowledge this as well.
In this way, working in admissions is a bit like being a matchmaker. We’re not trying to make a sale – instead, we’re trying to introduce a long-standing relationship between family and school. It’s incredibly rewarding to be a bridge in establishing this relationship.
4: As a mother of a YCIS Beijing Primary School student, how does it feel to be able to go to school with your daughter each day?
My entire career had been in the corporate world – just before joining YCIS Beijing I was the Asia-Pacific Sales and Marketing Director at EF Academy. It was a fast-paced, challenging and exciting career, but I travelled every day and wasn’t able to see my family nearly as much as I wanted.
Now working at Emma’s school, I’m able to focus on her far more than ever before. We have breakfast together; we walk to school together. After classes in the afternoon, she does her Chinese homework while I’m finishing up my work, then we walk home together and can sit down as a family for dinner.
I can invest my time now in Emma, and the pay off in health and family life has been huge.
5: As a seasoned Beijing expat and mother, could you please provide some tips for families new to Beijing:
After 22 years, I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks to navigate the city. (At the same time, every day in China still feels fresh with new challenges). But here’s a few tips that I always offer visiting friends and prospective families:
6: Finally, could you please share one of the most memorable days you’ve had as a family in Beijing?
Every day is an adventure. It’s important to find something good in every day. Of course, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stresses of life, but it’s important to take time, breathe, and look outside at everything happening around you. It’s cool to be a part of it all.
Every day is an adventure here because China changes literally every day. And the cultural differences you encounter keeps you on your toes. But it’s exciting. You never get bored here. You never relax completely, but you’re never bored, too. It’s a great place.