Describe your senior year in three words.
Challenging, thought-provoking, and unique. I completed the full life cycle of an honors thesis while learning remotely, which presented unique challenges.
What does being valedictorian mean to you?
Being valedictorian means I always strived for excellence in my academics. I always tried my best to avoid mediocre work or lazy thinking.
What’s your favorite Lafayette memory?
Some of my favorite memories at Lafayette include building a community with my Japanese language class and professor. Although there is no Japanese major or minor offered at the College, each student in any given Japanese class is intrinsically motivated by a love of Japanese language, culture, and society. Students under the guidance of Prof. Naoko Ikegami were able to pursue a high-level study of Japanese while also bonding over the challenges and rewards of learning the language. To me, this embodies what a liberal arts education can and should be.
What’s the most impactful class you took?
One of the most impactful classes I took at Lafayette was Chinese Foreign Policy, which sparked my interest in diplomacy and security in China and East Asia, and also informed much of my path to an interdisciplinary honors thesis on China. In addition to providing valuable insight on the motivations and workings of the Chinese Communist Party, this course and my subsequent independent study and thesis with Prof. Il Hyun Cho ultimately shaped the trajectory of my research interests and academic career at Lafayette.
Who was the most influential person during your time at the College?
Although many professors were influential during my time at Lafayette—including all the Asian Studies faculty and the Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures—I owe much of my personal development and academic growth to Han Luo, assistant professor of Chinese. I have taken over 10 of her courses since my first year, and I have also worked as her EXCEL Scholar. Prof. Luo and I conducted research on Chinese-American cross-cultural exchange and heritage learning, and we co-authored two forthcoming journal articles. Under her guidance, I applied to and was accepted into the Princeton University U.S.-China Coalition for the 2021 Global Governance Forum. She was nothing but helpful, compassionate, and generous to me over the past four years, and I’m sure we will stay in touch for many years. Thank you, Luo Laoshi!
What will you miss most about Laf?
I will miss the language communities of which I was a part, and being able to learn what I love every day. Being able to learn Chinese and Japanese at the same time was a highlight of my time at Lafayette. I was able to make many friends, as many of my classmates moved in a cohort for three to four years as we advanced in the language classes. I also saw many of the same friends in other Asian studies classes, including some of my favorites: Chinese Art and Architecture, taught by Prof. Ingrid Furniss, and Gender and Family in Modern and Contemporary Japan. I am very grateful for the people and professors who made these fascinating courses and experiences possible.
Describe your biggest challenge and how you overcame it.
My greatest challenge at Lafayette was deciding what path to take as I explored major options. Ultimately, I decided to follow my interests in East Asian language, culture, and diplomacy. The Asia-Pacific region continues to grow in influence on the world stage. I am sure that knowledge of East Asian languages, societies, and foreign policy will be instrumental in securing a graduate degree in the field of international affairs and beyond.
What do you wish for your fellow graduating classmates?
One of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, once said, ‘Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks it, I will always stand on the side of the egg. Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg.’ I wish my fellow graduating classmates could always consider this perspective. Right now, as many discourses and ideologies compete for primacy in the classroom, the workplace, and social media, it is important to remember that we made the system—the system did not make us—and we should never privilege ideology over humanity. Even when it is difficult to do so, it is more important than ever to value the individual over the system.
What advice would you give to your first-year self?
I would say don’t be afraid to take two languages at once. It’s a great opportunity to learn.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with upcoming seniors?
Work hard, play hard. There’s a world waiting for you outside college. Also, intelligence and power are not virtues; honesty, accountability, and generosity are.
How has Lafayette changed you?
Lafayette has put many precious people into my life, and I am thankful for that. Having relationships that outlast our four years in college is a true gift, and I owe it to Lafayette for meeting and getting to know these friends. These friendships have broadened my intellectual horizons and gifted me with wonderful memories.
How do you hope to change the world?
I hope to be a voice of truth and clarity, and I hope to use my knowledge and my skill set to promote these ideals. I hope to lead by example, studying and appreciating the cultures of the world while privileging the value of the individual.
The most important thing you learned about yourself at Lafayette is:
I learned the value of skepticism and independent thought. These critical thinking skills can inform my decision-making in all areas of life. Additionally, as a student of Asian affairs, I learned to separate the views of a ruling government from the views of its people. It is possible to love and respect a culture or society while being critical of political decisions that jeopardize democracy and freedom of speech.