Partnership With TBI-New Oasis Brings Chinese Students to School, Community

Partnership With TBI-New Oasis Brings Chinese Students to School, Community
  • One World
Janice Lewine

“These students have provided a great deal of positive impact on our community,” Head of Upper School Aaron Sundstrom said.

Ravenscroft has been a school home to many international students through the years. Some come to Raleigh with their families, while others attend through exchange programs. The school’s 10-year relationship with TBI-New Oasis has been a particularly rewarding one, bringing 11 highly qualified students from China to the Upper School.

Director of Enrollment Management Margaret Mills ’76, who serves as Ravenscroft’s designated school official for TBI-New Oasis, said she’s proud of the partnership and of the success the students placed here have had: after graduating from Ravenscroft, all of the program’s alumni have been accepted into quality colleges and universities in the U.S.

“It takes a lot of courage and determination to come this far, where everything is so unfamiliar, and it puts a tremendous amount of responsibility on the students,” she said. “We trust TBI-New Oasis to help us make good choices and care for these students while they’re at Ravenscroft.”

From left to right: TBI-New Oasis student Cynthia Ni ’22 (standing) joins other members of her advisory at the 2022 Alumni Association Welcome Dinner, held during the week of commencement; Maria Luo ’23 and Helena Yang ’23 help Cynthia celebrate her Ravenscroft graduation; Cynthia and castmates Jillian Wadley ’23 and Aramenta Owens ’23 perform in Ravenscrofts production of “Chicago” in the fall of 2019. (“Chicago” photo courtesy of Simon Capell Photography)

“A leader in placing students at quality North Carolina schools”

Operating through a network of more than 1,000 education counselors, TBI-New Oasis — which has headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, and in Beijing — recruits students from international schools in China and provides support for them here to enhance their academic and cultural experiences. The organization manages all aspects of students’ placement, from helping them apply to the schools of their choosing to translating necessary documents required for their stay in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa.

Melissa Neil, TBI-New Oasis Director of Programs for the East Coast, explained how students are recruited in China. “The students mostly come from families who choose international education and English study for their children in elementary school, and 95% of them will study abroad in high school or undergraduate university,” she said. “TBI-New Oasis has become well known by the Chinese schools and education counselors as a leader in placing students at quality North Carolina schools.”

The requirements for placement at Ravenscroft are steep. Students follow the school’s regular application process, which includes a 30-minute interview with Admissions that TBI-New Oasis facilitates. In addition, as Associate Director of Enrollment Management Chuck Vitello explained, “they have to score at least a 90 on TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] and be able to comprehend and converse in English to a degree that would help them be successful.”

TBI-New Oasis also works to ensure students will thrive here in other important ways as well. They look for applicants with a strong desire to attend high school in another country (rather than their parents pushing the choice for them), an awareness of the challenges of studying abroad and evidence of confidence, curiosity, good physical and mental health, and a willingness to be independent.

A local TBI-New Oasis representative oversees their transition at school, arrangements with the host family and even socials with other TBI-New Oasis students in their area.

“Every student is different and poses different challenges and growth,” TBI-New Oasis Lead Global Program Coordinator Stephanie Moore, who serves as the main point of contact for Triangle-area schools and students placed at them, said. “It has been amazing to see students start quiet and shy and then bloom and increase their self-esteem. They move from being very dependent to very independent.”

Clockwise from top left: Sean Shen ’21 brings the crowd to its feet as he takes the lead in a jump-rope relay race during 2019’s Stark Raven Madness; with fellow TBI-New Oasis student and roommate Bruce Zhu ’21, Sean picks up his senior sign — another Ravenscroft tradition — during the Senior Celebration event in May 2020; Sean (back row, third from right) and fellow members of the Upper School Science Club pose for a photo at the NC Science Olympiad’s Raleigh Regional Tournament in February 2020.

A “positive impact on our community”

Emerging from a few years in which the COVID-19 pandemic caused a decrease in the number of applicants in China looking to come to school in the U.S., TBI-New Oasis is enjoying renewed opportunities to share its program with students.

“We’re reinvigorating the private high school North Carolina market to Chinese parents and helping them to realize the benefits of their student living with a local host family while attending a top-tier school in the U.S.,” Neil said.

Among their recent placements in Raleigh is Kai Wang ’27, who enrolled at Ravenscroft this year. The ninth-grader, who hails from the Shandong province in eastern China, has adapted well to his studies and host family arrangements.

New Raven Kai Wang ’27 (at left) takes a selfie with Rainy Ye ’27 and Naveen Kumar ’27.

“My experience so far has been far better than what I anticipated. I like all of my teachers (which isn’t something that I’m used to), and the classes feel challenging at the right pace. I was surprised that I could feel somewhat comfortable in the English curriculum, while it didn't feel like a huge jump for me,” he said. “My host family joke that I’ve walked into the craziest family ever, but things have been very positive so far. They’re incredibly chill and supportive, which makes me feel like I’m set for four great years ahead of me.”

Co-Director of College Counseling Lia Prugh has worked with a number of TBI-New Oasis students — including Cynthia Ni ’22, Sean Shen ’21 and Chris Xiao ’20, whose reflections are featured in the Q&A highlighted above — and said that Kai’s sentiment is one she has heard from many program participants.

“Many TBI-New Oasis students say they appreciate the well-roundedness of our curriculum because it is different from the education they may have received in China, and they are excited that the universities in the U.S. generally have a wider focus on a more liberal arts curriculum,” she said.

Clockwise from left: Chris Xiao ’20 (at right) and teammates James Hohls ’20 and Matthew Hunter ’20 show off their robot from the 2020 FIRST Tech Challenge robotics tournament; Chris (third from left) and fellow hikers pause for a photo during their class’s Junior Mountain Trip in 2019; along with classmates, Chris (in white T-shirt) participates in the traditional Senior Parade on the first day of the 2019-20 school year.

Head of Upper School Aaron Sundstrom noted that Ravenscroft, too, has benefited from having these outstanding students engaged in classes and extracurriculars.

“These students have provided a great deal of positive impact on our community. They have all been extremely strong students academically, and they also bring a cultural context to their studies that can be illuminating for their classmates,” he said. “They have been instrumental in the planning and execution of the Lunar New Year festivities, helping them grow from a single presentation in the Upper School to a full-day event where students from all three divisions get to learn about the Lunar New Year and engage in fun and educational activities.”

“To share culture with one another is an amazing opportunity,” Moore, who is working with 14 area TBI-New Oasis students this year, concluded. “They add to ours and we add to theirs. For the students who decide to really live the experience of America, they have made some wonderful memories — and it is a privilege that we get to know an international student who can expand our horizons and teach us about another culture.”


Kai Wang ’27 is being hosted by local family Brenda and Reed Vanbenschoten.

Tell us about your homeland and family in China.
I come from the province of Shandong in China, which is known for its Confucius culture, hard exams and a 5’10” average height of people. It’s very densely populated compared to North Raleigh, but it has very bikeable roads arranged in a grid pattern. I used to live in an old mixed-use office building near the center of the city, so a really prominent memory of mine is watching the renters of the commercial side of the building come and go, and betting with my family on how long a particular renter would last in this area.

Both of my parents work government jobs, which meant they had to be mobilized every couple of years. Despite their sometimes bizarre work schedule and place of work, they still managed to be fantastic parents. Their constant love gave me peace of mind while I was managing the high school entrance exam in China and applying to schools overseas at the same time. From my perspective, people in my family are incredible, hard-working and kind, which gives me constant inspiration.

What attracted you to the United States and to Ravenscroft?
Studying in the U.S. has always been a dream of many of my family members, and I’m one of a few that has the opportunity and time to pursue this. I want to attend college in the U.S., and the typical step leading to that is attending an international high school in China. However, most international high schools have high tuitions, and some of them have questionable quality of courses, especially in humanities and language. We chose Ravenscroft because of the strong college counseling program as well as the welcoming and diverse student body. We also heard some very positive testimonies coming from TBI-New Oasis alumni, so overall we felt like this was the right choice for us.

Will you be able to visit your family in China?
Yes, probably once a year every summer. Jet lag and high prices of flights make it unfavorable to fly back two times a year for now, but it’s really great that every school day is mapped out on my Google calendar, which makes planning trips super convenient. I’ll be able to visit my family at least once or twice a year, as long as nothing crazy happens on the global scale.