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 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.
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.
Stuyvesant School, NY
Stuyvesant is one of the nine Specialized High Schools in NYC. Founded in 1904, it has produced four Nobel Laureates and a host of leaders in science, mathematics, government, law and the arts.
Trinity School, NY
Trinity is a high-profile K-12 school in NYC. Founded in 1709, it is one of the country’s oldest independent schools and has been named by Forbes as its best college preparatory school.
Boston Latin School, MA
BLS is a leading public exam school in Boston, MA. Founded in 1635, it is both the first public high school and oldest existing school in the US, following the curriculum of the 18thcentury Latin-school movement.
Arlington High School, MA
Arlington High School is a public high school located up the road from Harvard in Arlington, MA. Founded in 1915, Arlington currently enrolls 1,300 students annually in grades 9-12.
Auburn High School, MA
Auburn High School is the only public high school in Auburn, MA, a town approximately 5 miles south of Worcester. Founded in 1935, it enrolls 800 students in grades 9-12.
Bronx High School of Science, NY
Bronx Science is a specialized public high school in NYC. Founded in 1938, it is regarded as one of the top science magnet schools in the US, with over 3,000 students enrolled in grades 9-12.
Benjamin Franklin High School, LA
Founded in 1957, BFHS is a public magnet high school in New Orleans, LA. Its students are taught to imitate the great statesman’s curiosity and creativity across a broad curriculum.
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.
Harvard College was founded in 1636, and is the oldest institution of higher learning in the world. Harvard is a member of the Ivy League; its history, influence and wealth have also made it one of the most prestigious worldwide. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the school enrolls approximately 6,000 students, 11% of whom are international.
Yale College is the undergraduate college of Yale University. Founded in 1701, it is the original school of the university and the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Yale is a member of the Ivy League located in New Haven, Connecticut. The college currently enrolls 5,400 students from 120 countries.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts known traditionally for its strong emphasis on scientific, engineering, and technological education and research. Approximately 4,300 undergraduates are enrolled at the University, studying 44 disciplines.
Columbia College is the oldest undergraduate college at Columbia University and the fifth oldest in the United States. Columbia was founded in 1754 by the Church of England as King's College, after receiving a Royal Charter from the King of England. The College is known for its rigorous Core Curriculum, a series of mandatory classes and requirements that form the heart of students' academic experience.
New York University
New York University is a private research university based in New York City. Founded in 1831, is organized into more than 20 schools, colleges, and institutes, located in six centers throughout New York City and more than a dozen other sites across the world. International students comprise 13% of NYU's student body, which includes 19,000 undergraduates.
Barnard College is a private women's liberal arts college affiliated with Columbia University, and a member of the Seven Sisters Schools. Barnard was founded in 1889, and is named for Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard, then-president of Columbia University. The school enrolls approximately 2,400 women from 53 countries, 40% of whom are women of color.
Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States, and a world-renowned research university established in 1746. The university is noted for its emphasis on academic teaching, and regularly tops the US college rankings. It enrolls approximately 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students.
Georgetown University is a private research university in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Jesuit and Catholic university in the United States. The university enrolls 8,000 undergraduate students from 130 different countries, and is well renowned as a training ground for US diplomats.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Undergraduate courses at the University of Chicago are known for their demanding standards, heavy workload and academic difficulty. The University enrolls approximately 5,000 students in the College, 19% of which are international students.
Stanford University is a private research university in Stanford, California in northwestern Silicon Valley. The university was founded in 1885; its 8,180-acre campus is the largest contiguous college campus in the United States. Stanford enrolls 7,000 undergraduates. It is one of only two private universities whose students compete in NCAA Division 1 varsity sports.
The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university located in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868, Berkeley is the oldest institution in the UC system and offers approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a wide range of disciplines. Berkeley enrolls 26,000 undergraduate students, 10% of whom are international.
UCLA is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1919, it currently offers 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a wide range of disciplines. UCLA enrolls approximately 29,000 undergraduate and 13,000 graduate students; it is the most applied to university in the world with over 105,000 applications for Fall 2014.
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.
New York City
The largest city in the United States and financial center of the world, New York City is a cultural melting pot and home to countless iconic sites and many of the country’s top universities and high schools. Our students complete a lot of their social observation tasks in the city’s museums, cultural sites and inside the UN Headquarters.
One of the oldest and most culturally significant cities in the country, Boston was founded in 1630 and is home to some of the world’s most famous universities and several top high schools. All programs come through Boston, where two conferences are held and many of the exchanges, as well as some key museums and the historic Freedom Trail.
The capital and political hub of the United States, DC is an important destination for our students to gain a deeper appreciation of American history and explore the daily workings of its government. Students visit many of the city’s important museums, government agencies and embassy district and Georgetown University for the NAIMUN conference.
Dating back to 1833, the ‘windy city’ has grown into the third most populous city in the United States. Home of the University of Chicago and its MUN conference, Chicago is the largest city in both the US state of Illinois and the American Midwest, and an international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications and transport.
The largest financial center on the west coast and the world’s most thriving hub for technological innovation, San Francisco has been home to a large immigrant Chinese population dating back to the construction of the Pacific Railway in the 1880s. Students come here to visit the city’s leading universities and several companies in the nearby Silicon Valley.
Los Angeles is the largest city on the west coast, and the second largest by population in the country, after New York City, with many high performing schools and the University of California’s largest campus. Home to Hollywood and its booming entertainment industry, the city provides a warmer location for some of our high school exchanges.
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.
I learned to remain calm at any situations, I became more confident and sociable, I became more thankful and grateful, for both struggles and glories. It is the experience we have makes who we are. It is our attitudes towards life decide how far we can reach. The journey was absolute amazing, the MUN was amazing, the delegate dance was amazing, the people I met were amazing, and the most importantly, the things I learnt are indeed life-affecting.
My shadow, Katy, is a very nice girl. I spent my day with her except the ice hockey game. We had mathematics, English, history, physics and yoga class. Katy introduced me to many other boys and girls. I made loads of new friends. I was really excited when I played sports with them. It was a day full of beautiful memories and my deep thoughts about education in China and America.
We played basketball together and really enjoyed the Yoga class. We experienced the heartfelt passion of American students in the way they welcomed us, the way they studied and the way they shined wherever they were, and it was really an unforgettable experience with them.
“I have to say that I enjoyed every minute in Auburn High School! I made so many friends there like Jordan, Hannah, Yo, Lesedi and I’m still connecting with them now! For me the most impressive was their dance with Spanish music, you know, totally different from China because they had so much passion for hobbies and extracurricular activities! …It was hard to say goodbye to my shadow Jordan at the end of school because we had an awesome day. Anyway, awesome awesome awesome!!!”
I will remember this brilliant experience in Arlington High School forever! Especially when I worked with my partner to prepare their family party, I felt really happy. I am an only child in my family and only have some younger cousins, so when my family has a party, I always have to work alone! I really enjoyed working together; I can discuss about how can we do the job perfectly with someone at my age and learn about American family life.