I’m an only child because China has the one-child policy. It was my idea to come to NMH; I wanted to see what it was like to be away from my parents for a little bit and live by myself. At first they were like, “No. You can’t go away to the States. We don’t know what it’s like there.” But then my dad asked some friends, and they said, “Oh, boarding schools are a really good opportunity for a daughter.” I did the whole application and decision process by myself, but they supported me.
In Asia, schools put more emphasis on academics. Everything you do is about academics. NMH really tries to expose you to different parts of life, like sports and arts. One of the reasons I came to boarding school was to try things I’ve never done before. Right now I’m doing crew: I’ve been in three races so far, and they’re rough. But you’re pulling for your team—and all the other people are there for you. I’ve learned a lot about teamwork.
During my first semester, I took Humanities 1 with John Adams and Gary Partenheimer. When we read Life of Pi, which is about a boy who is shipwrecked with a tiger, we messed up the tables and chairs in the classroom and Gary brought in a painting of a tiger, and we pretended we were actually in that situation. In my old schools, we never did things like that. We just sat in the classroom and listened to the teacher say things like, “These are the five steps to writing an essay.” It didn’t really encourage us to think or use our imaginations.
Sometimes Gary took us for walks around Shadow Lake, and we read poems about nature. We have so much technology these days that we don’t see what’s around us anymore. On our last day, the whole class read the final chapter of Into the Wild out loud. The main character in the book went into the wild, and he made the effort to do something different, things that society didn’t necessarily approve of. I feel like so many people do what’s expected. Doing something different, going where your heart takes you—I really respect that.