Interview by Judy Kim ’22.
I’m very happy here at Brown. There are so many people who are so inspiring, they make me wanna get up at five to go to the gym. I like sweets, but they make me wanna eat salad.
International Humans of Brown (IHOB) introduces Summer, a sophomore from Beijing planning on concentrating in History and Econ. She speaks Mandarin, English, and conversational French. She is involved in the Brown Community as the UCS treasurer, Senior Editor for Brown Journal of History, Mentorship Coordinator for Brown China Care, and member of Smart Women Security.
Q: Have you ever traveled to places outside of China and the US?
A: I have lived in Beijing my whole life, but I enjoy traveling with my parents during the summer. I have been to the US, places in Europe (UK, Germany, Switzerland, Rome), and Japan.
Q: How is your experience living in the US as a student vs visiting for fun?
A: When I’m visiting, I am seen as, and feel like, a tourist, so I am not as immersed in the immediate culture around me. As a student, however, I believe that I have been able to experience a lot of the values and thoughts of Americans. I’ve learned much about the lifestyles and ideas of American culture by studying in the US, something I never would have experienced as a tourist.
Q: What are your thoughts on American education, so far?
A: In China, there is a lot of respect for teachers. We never talk back, no matter what the circumstances. I was surprised that in the US, students, although still respectful of their professors, sometimes confront professors when they have different opinions on politics and history. At my high school, we could only give our opinions in very discreet ways, so the teacher wouldn’t really know we were voicing our personal thoughts. People here definitely seem more proactive and discussive, and I think it’s powerful to have confidence and voice one’s own opinions.
Q: What are some controversial topics you have encountered since coming here? In other words, what are some things that may have been more distant to you in China but more immersive in the US?
A: I was shocked at how liberal Brown is. I took a class called Intro to American Political Process, where we talked about the presidency and 2020 elections, and it seemed that many of the students here at Brown were homogenous in their political views, especially the people who spoke up more in class. I find it fascinating that organizations such as the Brown Political Review are in place, because in China, we don’t really talk a lot about politics.
Q: Any other culture shocks?
A: I was struck by the inclusivity of my friends and am very grateful for it. When I took Academic Essay my first semester, I was worried, because I was one of the few international students in class. I was not very comfortable sharing my writing, because I thought my grammar might not be as good, and I was just unconfident overall. Fortunately, everyone was very nice and understanding, giving me a lot of constructive criticism. Even the professor was friendly and helpful, because he set up one-on-one conferences for our papers and even baked us cookies. It really reinsured me that Brown was the place I wanted to be at. As a result of taking Academic Essay and meeting all these cool people, I really felt like I wanted to a better writer, and do well in school.
Q: Why did you decide to attend Brown?
A: I had originally attended summer programs at Yale for Yale Young Global Scholars for two years in high school. Two of my friends went to Brown for summer programs, and by some crazy coincidence, both of them texted me on the same day telling me that I absolutely had to check out this school, because they thought it was a perfect fit for me. I took their advice and visited Brown, where I met a very enthusiastic tour guide. He had originally been undecided on his concentration, but he really took advantage of the Open Curriculum and found his passions. I felt like Brown was a place where I could maximize my interests; it’s definitely a place full of possibilities, and everyone seems really nice. Also, I wanted a change of scenery for my studies, because I come from a big city, and it wasn’t the type of place I wanted to pursue my education in.
Q: Were there any difficulties you had in your transition process?
A: Freshman fall was definitely challenging for me. I was coming from a different country, where I had lived my entire life, and this was my first time in college, surrounded by peers and away from my parents. I had to get used to the transition of being in a private college after many years of public school, and I felt homesick and missed my parents. Thankfully, I got a lot of help from people in Excellence at Brown and IMP. I especially feel grateful for my friends in IMP, because they were extremely supportive, and I felt like we shared many similar feelings as international students.
Q: What are your favourite classes?
A: I really loved Academic Essay, Arts of Asia, Political Philosophy, and CS15.
Q: What are some of your favourite parts of Providence?
A: I love that I have the freedom to study in so many places—I like to stay on campus to focus on my academics, but at the same time, I can go out for brunch on weekends. The city is very accessible from campus, so I’ll usually get something to eat and walk around at India Point Park. I can really take my own pace at Brown and Providence, because everything I need is here. I like the harbour, and even the 14th floor of the SciLi is nice, because it overlooks a lot of the city, and I can see the water from there.