Hua (Elaine) Luo received her BA in Education Sciences in December 2018 with two specialization: (a) Early Childhood Learning and Development and (b) Research and Evaluation. She minored in Accounting. Below Hua reflects upon her decision to pursue her college education in the U.S. and shares how her experiences have encouraged her to conduct research with the goal of cultivating youths' strength with quality educational programs.
I was born and raised in China for the first 17 years of my life. I went to an elementary school that was close to home for six years and then went to an international school for the second half of my K-12 journey. It was in that school that I learned of the option of studying abroad in another county. At the time, it was a big decision for me to make - whether I should leave my hometown, my family, and my friends. After talking to my parents and a long debate with myself, at the age of 14, I gave up the chance of taking the “Gaokao” exam, a test every Chinese student takes to get into college, and started my plan of coming to the United States. I had no idea which school I would attend and what the future would hold. Looking back at that moment after graduating from UCI, I would say it was the right decision to make.
When I entered UC Irvine as a freshman in 2016 majoring in Education, I was curious to find out how the U.S. education system is different from what I have experienced in China, what role does culture play in forming the educational system and policies, and what is the future trend of education from a global view. The UC Irvine School of Education was the best place for me to get those answers. It provided a platform for people from various backgrounds who were passionate about education to learn, discuss, and make changes in a student's life. I was moved by the great passion my professors had in their careers. Despite the fact that they came with different backgrounds - some of them were practitioners and some of them were researchers - they all influenced me deeply with their cutting-edge opinions and their faith in the importance of education. Slowly, I came to a conclusion that no matter how different Chinese culture and American culture are, education would always be the foundation of people’s lives, which helped me solidify my interest in becoming an educational researcher.
With the numerous questions I had on how to help children reach their best potentials, I joined Dr. Reich’s Development in Social Context lab trying to find more answers. I was lucky enough to be part of Joanna Yao's study (Joanna was my graduate student mentor), and I participated in different stages of the research project. Through this experience, I formed a research interest in understanding how parents help their youth make a good decision when using mobile devices. In the 21st century, where much learning takes place online, students’ time out of school is also crucial to their development. As a digital-native myself, my parents and I had problems finding the balances between using and overusing the Internet. Under the guidance of Dr. Reich and Joanna, I started my own project on this interesting topic and applied to the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) at UCI. Fortunately, I received funding from the program and was able to present my research results to a broader audience, including practitioners, parents, and researchers.
During my time at UCI, I gained many other practical experiences working closely with college students as a Learning Assistant for the Statistics class as well as with preschoolers at the Early Childhood Education Center. Moreover, I have also learned advanced research methods and analysis in Dr. Simpkins’ Project Reach lab when exploring the effect of quality after-school programs on youth developmental outcomes. It was these students, professors, and graduate student mentors that kept me going on this path full of unfamiliarity. Thanks to them, I will continue to pursue a career in conducting research with the goal of cultivating youths' strength with quality educational programs.
Looking forward, I am excited to go get my Master’s degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education in Human Development and Psychology and then pursue a Ph.D. degree in the field. I am grateful of the decision I made when I was a 14-year-old girl, and I am appreciative of all the challenging faculties and students at UCI that helped me grow to a better version of myself and will keep on inspiring me to become a better educator.
Presenting Research at SRCD, 2019