Overview

Polaris takes its name from the current ‘north star’, a symbol of guidance and navigation that travellers have depended on for centuries to find their way. Its goal is to guide students on several levels of academic exchange away from China as they try to find the right path for their future studies and careers abroad. 

 

2014-2015 Program Dates

The 2014-2015 programs are still under development, and will be held between December 2014 and February 2015. Click here to fill out an interest form and secure your place early!

Polaris is an intensive academic exchange program designed for Chinese high schools preparing to apply to college abroad. Students spend up to 20 days in the US engaging in a broad range of academic activities centered on their participation in one of the competitive MUN conferences held at several US colleges during their winter holidays, which they begin training for months in advance. Students are guided by clear goals for the trip, including building global leadership skills and a critical understanding of local culture, education and interaction with local citizens, which are facilitated by interactive social observation, high school exchanges and lectures at US colleges.

The next series of programs will run from December 2014 to February 2015 and vary in duration and weighting between the different components depending on the MUN experience and learning priorities of the different groups. The conferences available to our students include PMUNC, HMUN, YMUN, NAIMUN, MUNUC and MITIMUNC and there will be different types of high school exchanges, college and social activities designed for each group.

Polaris Approach

Polaris Overseas Learning Model

Polaris students step into four roles in to realize their individual goals through the program: build global leadership skills, interact with local peers in their own high schools and homes, experience the differences between US colleges to find their ‘best fit’ and engage with local culture and society.

Role 1

MUN Delegate

Debate and form resolutions to complex world issues with thousands of students from around the world at one of the leading conferences on the US high school MUN circuit, challenging themselves and building global leadership skills.
Role 2

Exchange Student

Spend up to a week in an American high school, shadowing local students in classes and extracurricular activities, adapting to the different style of learning and making lasting friendships to help prepare for a smooth transition when they return on their first day of college.
Role 3

Visiting Scholar

Attend lectures and meet with current students and alumni at a diverse mix of US colleges, ranging from small liberal arts colleges to large public universities and Ivy League schools, gaining an appreciation for the pros and cons of different schools in determining their ‘best fit’.
Role 4

Social Observer

Visit multiple towns and cities in the US, interact with local citizens, experience local culture and attend a range of social activities, forming a more genuine understanding of America’s social diversity and reflecting on their own identity and cultural values.

All Polaris students participate in one of the high school MUN conferences run by several leading US colleges between December and February, each lasting approximately 3-4 days and attracting students from up to 30 countries around the world. Students are predominantly trained and selected from the Pegasus programs (link to Pegasus parent) and typically have at least one year of experience participating in MUN activities at their school and regional/national conferences in China

After admission to Polaris, all students undergo 22 hours of specific training tailored to the conference they have been assigned to for their trip. Below is the standard curriculum for our pre-conference training workshops, all led by APE’s academic team. Each group is also chaperoned by at least one experienced MUN faculty advisor to ensure that the delegates get high-quality support and feedback during the conference.

All Polaris students spend at least one day in a local high school during their trip, in some cases exchanging for up to one full week and staying with local families. This role is important in helping students acclimatize to the learning style and cultural aspects tied to success in an American academic environment.

During their exchange, there are three key highlights for students:

1. Classroom Immersion

Students are paired up and shadow local students to different classes according to their schedule, a big difference from their schools in China where classes are taken in the same room with the same classmates for the whole of high school. The students enjoy the flexibility and variation of classes, small class sizes and open interaction with their classmates and teachers.

2. Extracurricular Activities

Students stay on with the shadows after school to accompany them to their extracurricular clubs and activities, meeting new friends and moving out of their comfort zone. Past groups have practiced with the Model UN and Model Congress clubs, attended drama rehearsals, band practices and gone along to support the school sports teams in matches with rival schools.

3. Cultural Exchange

The schools we choose for the exchanges typically offer Chinese language programs, and our programs typically coincide with Chinese New Year, so students prepare cultural performances and activities or the host students to learn about Chinese culture, food and society.

Many of the friendships made during these exchanges are lasting, and vital to creating a culture of trust and mutual respect that will underpin the most important bilateral relationship of their generation.

One of the biggest challenges for Chinese students preparing to study abroad is navigating the sea of information and expectations from parents in selecting which colleges to apply for. Many Chinese students don’t settle into college because they haven’t had an opportunity to seek out their ‘best fit’.

Their third role during the program is visiting a selection of colleges ranging from big to small, public to private, with four key components to give them a sense of what it would be like to study there.

1. Campus Tour

We arrange for the student organizations we work with at the respective colleges to organize in-depth campus tours with a maximum 15:1 ratio to give students an opportunity to explore each college through the eyes of a current student.

2. College Classes

We arrange for students to sit in on some classes and/or lectures at select colleges, to get a feel for the prospective learning environment and diversity of courses available.

3. Admissions Sessions

At more popular colleges, we will arrange for students to attend open admissions lectures on the application procedure and admissions requirements so that students can understand what matters most to the different colleges.

4. Meet Current & Former Students

After the campus tours, students typically have lunch or coffee with a group of current and former students, with a small enough ratio to allow them to feel comfortable asking open questions and seeking advice.

In between their MUN conference, high school exchange and college visits, Polaris students visit a broad range of cities and towns in the US, and our teachers guide them through this journey using our interactive travel log, requiring students to complete several tasks during their sightseeing to learn more about American culture and society through the lens of ethnic diversity.

Some highlights for the students along the way include:

1. Hands-on Activities:

Students are required to complete a lot of tasks ‘off the tourist bus’ as the travel through cities and towns, including interviews with local business owners, academics, tour guides, teachers, students and local media.

2. Social Lectures:

Students attend lectures on topics such as the founding of the United States, displacement of Native Americans, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and modern immigration at different NGOs and academic institutions, returning to China with a deeper sense of America’s cultural diversity.

3. Cultural Visits:

Students see all of the main tourism sites along the way, but also spend time visiting different museums guided by questions and tasks set in their travel log, varying between large museums such as the New York Met to small civil rights museums and the historic Freedom Trail in Boston.

4. Critical Reflections:

Students are required to make daily entries into their travel log, and the trip ends with a presentation all students make in small groups recounting on the highlights and learning points from their trip.

Role 1: MUN Delegate

Polaris are assigned to one of six conferences, depending on their time, experience and learning goals:

Role 1: MUN Delegate

Through 3-4 days of debate, students gain a greater awareness of the issues facing the international community today and their shared responsibility of finding collaborative solutions, improve their interpersonal skills and confidence using English to express their ideas, and make friends from all around the world, laying solid foundations for their global futures.

Role 2: Exchange Student

Polaris students are assigned to different US high schools depending on the type of exchange they applied for and their academic background. Below are some of the schools our students have exchanged at during past programs.

Our Exchange Students in Action

Most Polaris students spend one day in their host school, with some groups exchanging for up to a full week and living with host families. Although brief, their time immersed in a local US high school allows them to acclimatise to a different way of learning them and make genuine connections with American students their age that will guide them on their path to success at college and beyond.

Role 3: Visiting Scholar

Polaris students visit between 5-10 colleges depending on the location of their MUN conference and the length and focus of their program. Below are some of the popular colleges we visited during past programs.

Our Visiting Scholars in Action

Visiting such a broad range of colleges has remained one of the highlights of the program for our students, and many leave with completely different preferences than when they arrived based on their conversations with current students and experiences on campus, often choosing schools they wouldn’t have considered before the trip.

Role 4: Social Observer

Polaris students visit between 6-10 different cities depending on the location of their MUN conference and the length and focus of their program. Below are some of the highlights from past programs.

Our Social Observers in Action

Polaris students are guided through America’s cities and towns with structured learning goals and detailed travel logs to make sure that they make the most of their time off the ‘tourist bus’ to see beyond the country’s economic development into its complex historic, cultural and ethnic diversity.

Pegasus-NAIMUN 2014
Chengdu
July 2014
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