化龙还需点睛——小雨的志愿活动

古话说得好,人如其文。虽然美国常青藤各大学的招生官们并不一定知道这句谚语,但这并不妨碍他们精心提出一个个千奇百怪的留学文书题目,希望未来的大学生们能够借此机会让自身的形象跃然纸上。然而,对于不深谙英文学术写作之道的中国高中生而言,他们的一篇篇留学文书,可以文法通达,句意明确,但往往读起来却整体上感觉疏远冷漠或是含混不清。虽然该有的都有了,但不给读者留下任何深刻的印象。

陈欣老师见过不少这样的留学文书。学生的SAT不低于2000,托福不低于105,但他们有的时候自己甚至也能发现问题所在并因此而苦恼。譬如下面的这篇,是一位小姑娘(我们就叫她小雨吧)写自己的一次志愿活动:

With the sunlight permeated through the thick clouds, twisted mountains become golden. It was after one year that I got on a plane that could take me to where I was last summer, Tibet. Overlooking the plateau through the later part of my journey, I image myself as an eagle hovering over the mountain waves. After I got back from the place last year, I felt that there is always a power driving people back to Tibet again. Maybe the trees, the water, the people, the scents or the feelings that keep attracting me, and I just suffered through times of desirable wishing to travel Tibet again.

One year ago, my father told me a story: When he founded his first company, he and other colleagues met two Tibetan. It was a little girl with eye cancer, who carried by her old grandmother on the back all the way from Tibet to Beijing. The company did its best to help the little girl and her grandmother find great doctors and nice hotels, and even to raise fund for them. Sadly, the little girl never lived longer because her disease was too hard to cure. “But, this was never the end of the story.” My father said that to me when I felt so sorry for the little girl. He continued, “There is a blind kid school in Lhasa and all the children there need our helps so badly.” Finally, after heard about the school for two years, I got an opportunity to visit the school. There I had a really long conversation with the director Chogyal, who was also visually paralyzed. He told me almost everything he knew about the school and I have to say that I was shocked. Even though most of people who were living on the campus are blind people, the school system was really organized. Most of the kids there knew how to speak English and Chogyal even studied abroad in both UK and US. It was too good to be changed, so when I asked him what I could do to help the school, Chogyal pondered a while and said, “right now we just need some braille typewriters and more teacher.”

I started to pay attention in volunteering activities when I was in 4th grade, back in China. I went on to serve as voluntary teacher with my best friends at an orphan school. It was the first time that all my eyes, my ears, my body and my mind reached to the part of the world that could never be seen in schools. By that time, the little princess in my parents’ eyes could never be found, instead I became an activist who always tries to do something for the needy. It turned out that in my school there is a program giving fund for students to engage in unique social services. I applied for it right away and spread the idea of doing my project in the blind kid school in Tibet, as a result, I gained a really big fund and support. Also, I even promoted this idea to two of my classmates and they were all willing to help me out. I could never forget how I feel when I got the envelope with the money inside. It was like I have completed a part of my whole life that is missing for such a long time, and when there were people holding my back and supporting me, I knew I was not alone.

Sometimes I just need an external push. Last summer, I went to Lhasa and visited the school again. This time, I was not an innocent girl like last year but more like a mature volunteer who was ready to adjust in any adversity. Honestly, I am a quiet girl who doesn’t usually speak in front so many people, but I would do anything to achieve a goal that worth me to go for. Without any hesitation, I contacted my old school and gave speech there. On the stage, I found that it was really hard to gather up all the attentions from different directions, but I had already foreseen it. Therefore, first I put many sceneries of Tibet and an album of blind kids. Second, I made myself louder and louder enough to let everybody in the building hear me, and I even asked funny questions. It was my real first step to challenge myself to speak in front of so many people.

In the end, I planned for the whole trip to Tibet; I bought the braille typewriters for the school as Chogyal requested before; we brought resources for the project; and last, I even brought my guitar with me. After traveling for almost a day, I returned. Just by setting foot on this sacred ground, I knew what was trying to pull me back here all the time. It was my faith in achieving the goal that I had set for myself years ago and that I had not finished last year right here in Lhasa. To prove that, I tried myself to do the best I can for the school. There was one scene with the kids there that inspired me the most. When I was playing guitar for them, I figured that something changed in those kids’ heart. All of the sudden, I was surrounded by them and my guitar was covered up by their little hands. Their hands were seeking, and suddenly a sound came out from the guitar caused by someone’s finger. The scene was amazing but also painful to look at. Though they had so many dreams in their heart, the reality was just too cruel on them. Eventually I left my guitar there for the kids to play around because they definitely deserved that.

All my weaknesses and immaturities have come to terms with these blind kids’ motivations. Their yearnings for love and knowledge made me accustom to any obstacles or debacles in life.

看完了这篇文章,陈老师并不怀疑学生的英语水平。事实上,文章里有不少可圈可点的地方,譬如选题(无论是志愿者还是西藏,都是极好的主题),材料的挖掘(写得很深刻,每段都有很好的支撑),句子与段落结构(注意到了句子的多变性,然后也有考虑段落与段落的联系)等等。但很遗憾,这篇作为留学文书而言并不能说是完全令人满意的。为什么?因为只看到有各种素材的堆砌而已。

让我们从开头和结尾段看起。一开始,学生写了自己希望重返西藏的愿望;在结尾,学生写到西藏之行对自己的改变。这本来没有太大问题,但是这些加上中间大段大段的内容(第二段,父亲与西藏的联系以及我的第一次西藏之行;第三段,我作为志愿者的经历;第四段,我做筹款演讲的经历;第五段,第二次西藏之行以及由吉他引发的故事)不免让读者感到困惑。这就涉及到陈老师一直倡导的一种思想:留学文书要有一个核心思想,或者用比喻说,三魂七魄。

那么,这篇文章的核心应该是什么呢?如果学生把自己视为是有社会责任感的企业家,应该围绕继承父亲愿景的角度来写(第二段前半部分)。如果学生把自己定义成一个未来的社区领袖,应该考虑展开说自己筹款的努力和成果(第三段和第四段)。如果学生意图用技术来帮助弱势群体,应该描述他们遇到的问题(第二段后半部分)和解决方案(第五段前半部分)。

事实上,在反复讨论之后,小雨觉得更想反映出她的人文情怀。于是在陈老师的指导下,她全部重写了这篇文章:

Overlooking the stretching plateau through the porthole, I image myself as an eagle hovering over the Tibetan mountain ranges. Something, in this holy, enchanting land, would not let go of me. So here I am, again.

Through father’s connections, I learned that a school for visually impaired at Lhasa could use additional braille typewriters. As a young girl with a long history in volunteering, I did not hesitate to rally support from all sources available. Pushing myself to the limit, I soon earned the needed fund and blessings with speech and determination. Immediately after that, I finished trip planning and procured typewriters. Moreover, I brought my cherished guitar with me, with the hope to provide some additional comfort and entertainment.

After a journey lasting almost a day, I finally arrived at my destination. Finishing setting set up all typewriters, I tried to see if I could do something more and reached for my guitar. When I was playing for the young kids there, I experienced a kind of transfiguration working at both sides: The curiosity and expectation of students soon overcame the shyness of their natural state. All of the sudden, I was surrounded by them and my guitar was covered up by their little hands. They were seeking for something, and voila, a magnificent chord came from the interaction of strings and resonating chamber, following by giggling and all sort of mischiefs. To me, the scene was amazing but also painful to look at. Though they had so many dreams in their heart, the reality was plainly too cold. Eventually I left my guitar there for the kids because they definitely deserved that.

After the trip, I was rejuvenated by the aspiration of these blind boys and girls. In essence, it was their yearnings for positive aspects in life that make me introspect. In fact, it was this very experience that empowered me to face adversity and lent me the key to become a more confident, complete person in the future. No matter how hard the challenge were to be conquered, I would never give up because there are so many heroes out there in Tibet, who smile at the sufferings and make the most out of what meager things they already have.

不是每一个人都能从吉他琴弦的拨动悟出人生苦难和幸福的真谛,把这种情操原原本本的表述出来更要难得多。不过这一回,她做到了。

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陈 欣

陈 欣

AADPS创始人

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