Breaking the Ice

October 17, 2013 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

Breaking the Ice

Entering the headquarters of the United Nations (U.N.) complex overlooking the East River in Manhattan was like a dream come true for BMCC Liberal Arts major Nga Ping Lam.

“I saw the name in my history book but it was the first time I had seen the real thing,” she says. “I have the ID with my fingerprint on it, so I’ve been excited to explore it.”

Recently nominated to be a Youth Representative through the Association for Women in Psychology, Lam will canvas the BMCC student body for a report she’ll deliver at the U.N. this fall.

Psychology Professor Maram Hallak, says Lam, “will help me collect the issues and organize the student survey. We will send an email to the students asking about any difficulties that get in the way of their learning. I will also try to interview people in the cafeteria, approaching students of different nationalities, to get their perspectives.”

Her student survey supports U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s larger goal to “address the needs of the largest generation of young people the world has ever known,” and to enlist youth participation with challenges including the worldwide HIV epidemic, poverty, violence, and sustainable development—what he calls “the defining issue of our time.”

Breaking the Ice

Nga Ping Lam explains that her name, “Nga” means “elegant” in Chinese, and “Ping” means “cold” or “ice.”

Reaching out to other students and speaking in a conference at the U.N., she says, is helping her “break the ice” of language and culture that is part of her experience as an international student.

Lam grew up in Hong Kong, where she played the guzheng with the Lok Sum Chinese Orchestra, and she moved to New York in 2011 with her family.

“I had difficulty with English, but BMCC helped me a lot,” she says.

“Advisors said I should take CLIP [the CUNY Language Immersion Program], where I did reading and writing intensives. We also went to the African American Museum in New York City and other places to immerse ourselves in English.”

Helping others

Lam chose BMCC, she says, “because I needed to start with a community college, where I can learn the culture first, and then with the opportunities I find here, I can go anywhere, like the logo says.”

She plans to graduate in December 2013, and has applied to both Hunter College and Brooklyn College, where she intends to major in education, with a focus on students with disabilities.

Her interest in that field was triggered by personal experience.

“My nephew has learning problems,” she says, “and no one helped him to learn because they didn’t understand and just thought he was lazy.”

A personality and childhood psychology class at BMCC “helped me understand how children behave and where they characteristics come from,” she says. “It is helping me to learn how to help others.”

Lam presents her BMCC student survey at the U.N. this fall, and in March 2014, she and Professor Hallak will travel to Columbus, Ohio for the annual WMA conference, where she will make another presentation and meet other Youth Representatives from around the country.