Shiwen Luo (罗诗文), a freshman music major at the University of Oregon, is a full-time student from Beijing. Luo made the decision to travel the 5,500 miles from China to take advantage of the greater number of opportunities in American schools. In China, she says, there are few schools known for music, all of which are competitive and difficult to enter.
“The way music is taught is also very different,” says Luo, comparing the U.S. and Chinese systems. “Teachers in China usually teach Russian music theory, but I prefer western theory.”
Despite learning in her preferred setting, Luo says that she must work hard to keep up with her American classmates. “My English isn’t great, so it’s difficult. I have to really concentrate and listen when teachers explain content. I also spend a lot of time on reading and writing. On a simple 500-word writing assignment, I could spend a whole day trying to think of how to say what I want to say.”
To add to her difficulty, Luo says that many of her classmates already have experience learning music theory. Although Luo has learned piano for about six years, she admits she knew little theory before coming to the United States. “There are a lot of very specific terms in music theory that aren’t easy to understand, especially because I’ve never learned them in Chinese.”
This uphill battle to keep up has not deterred Luo, however. Her love for the piano has helped push her to persevere in her studies. In addition to her classes, she practices piano every day. She knows that in any new setting, it takes time to adjust and learn. She says that the hard work and time spent now will help her to learn more quickly in the future.