The grizzled Beijing driver grunts “hello” as I slide into his cab at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, my fourth day in China. I’m headed to our office in Beijing’s Dongcheng district to meet my colleagues, Andy and Wing, for my first-ever first-hand look at the Vericant Interview. We’ve got 14 students on the books from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and I’m eager to finally get a closer look at the operations side of Vericant. I will see this year’s new set of interview pictures and questions, and, most intriguing of all, meet the Chinese students I so often talk about in meetings with schools.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 3.27.26 PMHoards of busy locals flow in and out of the McDonald’s right next door to the entrance of Vericant’s office building. Their swinging bags of Chinese breakfast crepes and cups of tofu milk block my eventual arrival to the elevator that my colleagues ride every day. I step in and join the three people already on board. My arm stops mid-way after noticing that the button for Vericant’s floor is already illuminated. Huh. I think nothing of it. After all, we do share the floor with several other businesses.

The trio of fellow passengers are sharply dressed and seem friendly. My guess is a young man and his parents. After my brief “hello” in English, I’m pleasantly surprised when the family greets me in my native tongue, makes eye contact, and engages me in conversation. Those are welcomed respites from what I am used to so far during these first four days.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 9.32.24 AMThe elevator doors open and it seems my mind follows, as I quickly realize that this young man with whom I’d been interacting with, is applying to one of our partner schools and is scheduled to interview with Vericant today! Like any well-prepared Chinese applicant, he and his family arrived 20 minutes ahead of his scheduled interview time.They and I can sense the thrill in my voice as I introduce myself as a member of the Vericant team. The student is polite, eager, confident, and chatty. He’s applying to the Cranbrook Schools and a few other schools. With the utmost enthusiasm, he tells me of his travels to Hawaii, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. I’m not sure anyone could build a better list of West Coast spots to hit than that one!

After nearly 10 minutes of fun conversation with the family, I wish him well and enter the office to touch base with my colleagues.

The young student has no idea that the brief encounter has humanized my Vericant work.

Our encounter enabled me to more completely and personally understand the importance of the service we provide and its impact on the lives of young, ambitious students.