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Rigorous english exam launched overseas study

Updated: 2014-11-24 07:50
(China Daily)

Recalling his freshman year at university, Guo Li said he kind of wasted it.

"I failed to meet the expectations I had for myself in the gaokao and enrolled in a not-so-good university in Tianjin," said Guo, 31, who took his first Test of English as a Foreign Language in 2003. "I was very disappointed about the situation and didn't know what to do. I had no plans for my future."

His situation changed when he visited old friends who studied at Tsinghua University during the summer break. Instead of traveling, his friends were taking classes at training institutions for tests like the Graduate Record Examinations and the English exam.

"That was the first time I got to know TOEFL and GRE," said Guo, who is from Tianjin. "At the beginning, I simply wanted to follow my friends' plan. Gradually I began to treat these tests as a way to push myself back on track."

Guo, who ultimately got into the London School of Economics and then University of Cambridge for postgraduate research, said he found at that time that a number of friends were also disappointed with their gaokao performance.

"We were all impressed by the beautiful Tsinghua campus and thought we had no chance to be an undergraduate there," Guo said. "But maybe if we could study overseas and obtain a PhD, we might still have a chance to teach at Tsinghua."

Guo devoted much effort to studying for the English exam. He took his first TOEFL at the end of 2003.

"To prepare for TOEFL, I had to travel to Beijing to take courses because there was no training course in Tianjin," Guo said. "Sometimes I had to skip my classes in Tianjin."

He had nowhere to live in Beijing and sometimes spent the night in a basement.

At that time, the Internet was not as popular as today. Guo said he had to rely solely on vocabulary books, TOEFL papers and his desire to learn.

"My girlfriend and my parents were not supportive," Guo said. "My parents thought I might fail again, and my girlfriend didn't want to go abroad if I did. I was under a lot of pressure."

But all of those efforts eventually paid off. After one year of work in Tianjin, Guo began his overseas studies at the London School of Economics, and later at the University of Cambridge.

"I remembered when I studied in Beijing for the TOEFL, all of the students who sat with me in the same classroom were from prestigious universities such as Tsinghua or Peking University," Guo said. "If it were not for the English test, I would not be able to stand at the same starting line with them. I was more confident about myself thanks to TOEFL."

For the last five years, Guo has been engaged in public welfare activities in the UK and China as the founder and leader of a NGO and a charity foundation.



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