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Success by Design

10 April 2015

Head Boy in 2012, BISS Pudong graduate Maurice Dusault swapped the bright lights of Shanghai for the equally luminous glow of New York when he enrolled at Parsons School of Design in the big apple. Maurice was a much admired member of the school community, launching himself into a range of activities and fully embracing his time in China, even learning the erhu! With a bright future ahead we asked him about how his time at BISS Pudong has shaped him as a global creative.

You had already attended international schools in Nanjing and the Netherlands before enrolling at BISS Pudong. Would you say all international schools are the same, or did you find something different at BISS Pudong?

Despite sharing the common goal of promoting an international learning environment, international schools differ from each other in many ways. Not only do they differ in the curriculum they follow, be that British or American, but they differ in the community they create.

Out of all international schools I attended, I found BISS Pudong offered the most international experience. Despite it being the largest international school I have attended (in terms of number of students), it had the most close-knit community of them all. The school has a great atmosphere and a learning environment where students can feel safe and are respectful of each other.

BISS Pudong was far more involved in helping the local community than other international schools, offering an incredible array of extra curricular activities and community service programmes that allow the students to explore any interest.

What I found most memorable about BISS Pudong was its commitment to its students. BISS provides incredible opportunities to get the best out of each student. An example of such an opportunity the school gave me was when the school sent myself and two other students to Toronto, Canada to hold a talk at a TEDx conference — an experience I will never forget.

Being at school with students and teachers from around the world certainly gives an insight into other cultures. Can you identify any ways in which that exposure led to a greater understanding of other people – broadened your mind to other cultures?

BISS Pudong has an incredibly diverse community with teachers and students from all around the world. Being surrounded by people from over 50 different countries broadens your mind to other cultures, and it has made me the open-minded multicultural individual that I am today, something I will forever cherish.

International day was certainly the day to learn the most about someone’s culture. The festivity celebrates all nationalities and cultures and gives people the opportunity to display the beauty of their culture in a way you wouldn’t get the chance to do when in the classroom.

You tried many different things in your time at BISS Pudong, among them service activities that saw you helping others in the community in Shanghai. Tell us some of the things you did, but also how that experience shapes your life as a young adult. Are you involved now in any service activities?

During my time at BISS Pudong I was actively involved in the International Award Programme. One of the main goals of the programme is to encourage students to give back to the community through service activities. The most memorable experience was teaching English to children from a nearby migrant school. Seeing the students so actively involved and eager to learn left a deep impression on me. Their enthusiasm to learn English made me realise what a privilege it is to have access to quality education, it is something that everyone should cherish and take full advantage of.

At BISS, we not only helped the immediate local community in Shanghai, but also got the opportunity to help communities in other parts of China. We have – for example – cleaned up, painted, and redecorated a playground at a local school in Xiamen, and even helped harvest crops in a rural village in the mountains of Yunnan.

Now that I am attending university, I am able to begin using my practices in order to impact the community. Parsons prides itself on being actively involved in the community, tackling problems and engaging in discussion about social justice, sustainability, urbanisation and immigration. A large part of being a Design and Management student at Parsons requires identifying and solving real-life problems within the local community. In class, we focus on engaging with critical contemporary problems and apply design thinking to attain viable solutions.

You’ve gone from one of the world’s great cities (Shanghai) to another of the world’s great cities (New York). Are there many similarities? Do you spend much time in Chinatown NY now?

I do end up spending a lot of time in New York’s Chinatown. Although it’s not the same as China, the similarities make me feel at home. I often go to a small Shanghainese restaurant and reminisce about the great times I have had living in China over some soup dumplings and bubble tea. Shanghai and New York are two very different cities, one of the only similarities is that they both never sleep. New York is an incredible city to live in and study. It is a melting pot of cultures and a place where you can follow your dreams and be who you are. It is a very fast paced city and a hard one to adapt to at first, but it prepares you for real life. I have fallen in love with this city and don’t see myself leaving New York for a long time.

Having said that, I really do miss Shanghai. Shanghai is a very friendly and welcoming city, and has this wonderfully chaotic atmosphere that I miss in New York. It was fascinating to grow up in Shanghai as I saw the city change before my eyes at an incredible rate, enabling me to see firsthand the effects of China’s economic boom.

Why did you choose Parsons Design School in America over a European destination? Do you think your international experience has given you a more open mindset towards travel and taking the opportunity to live in other parts of the world?

There are two main reasons as to why I chose to attend Parsons in the United States: the school and the city.

Parsons is one of the most prestigious design schools in the world. It is a creative and progressive university that I am confident will prepare me for today’s rapidly changing world. It is also one of the only schools to offer my desired course — Design and Management — at a bachelors level. The BBA programme in Design and Management integrates business, design, and liberal arts education, and promotes interdisciplinary learning through research and collaborative work.

Another reason why I chose Parsons The New School for Design is because of it’s large international community. As a university, Parsons has the largest percentage of international students in the United States. This allows me to continue my international experience, and makes me feel more at home than attending a university where I would be the only student with international experience.

The second reason was for the city. New York City is an exciting city to live in, especially for a designer. There are opportunities at every corner and an abundance of resources. Parsons is the perfect place to take full advantage of the city since it’s surrounded by the world’s most famous art and design institutions and museums like the MoMA, the Metropolitan, and the Guggenheim, transforming the city into an extension of our campus.

I strongly believe that my international experience has made the move to the United States easier. Having moved a lot in the past has enabled me to easily adapt to new environments and cultures without much stress and shock.

How has your education at BISS Pudong, and particularly the International Baccalaureate, prepared you for the sort of challenges you’re now facing in New York at design school?

The International Baccalaureate has prepared me well for the challenges I now face at a design school. I am especially thankful for the required “Theory of Knowledge” component of the IB. TOK has enabled me to think critically, an invaluable skill when faced with complex problems.

The IB has taught me the importance of time-management, this skill has allowed me to be successful during the many extensive projects you are faced with at design school.

Collaboration is a key component to achieving success at design school. Studying IB at an international school has given me the ability to work to the best of my ability with a diverse group of people.

You took up the erhu in Shanghai… Why? What new pastime have you taken up in New York?

Before moving to China, I used to play the violin. After having trouble finding a good violin teacher, I decided to take advantage of living in China and learn something from the local culture. As I was walking through the city, I heard it being played on the street and was instantly mesmerised by the instrument. Whilst living in China, the erhu served as a tool which enabled me to learn more about Chinese culture.

I still continue to play the erhu in New York. I have befriended an old local in Chinatown who also plays the erhu, we frequently go busking together in parks or in subway stations.

Ever since coming to New York, I have fallen in love with photography. New York is an amazing city to photograph, there is always something to see and shoot. Walking through the city with a camera makes me see the city in new ways. It opens my eyes, and pushes me to explore the city. I have been able to bring this new passion into my studies at Parsons, and am currently pursuing photography as a minor.