Wen Han '12: Moments in the US


Name: Wen Han
Majors: Math, Economics, Concentration in International Studies
Class: 2013
Citizenship: China

Having had three years of high school in California, I was exposed to US College preparation earlier than several International students. I did research on which colleges I would love to attend for my undergraduate degree and Williams was amongst the top in the list since it is one of the premier institutions in the US. Other than its academic quality and abundance of resources, what stood out most for me was Williams’ closed-knit community, both within the student body and among the alumni. This is very distinct from the conventional large universities where classes may be taught by Teaching Assistants and rarely do students get to interact with their professors.

Whether it is China or California, my experiences have been a lot more homogeneous than at Williams. School in China was very focused on academics where everyone took the same courses and sat for the same tests. Success was simply defined as being the top of the class. Likewise, in California, I went to a relatively small high school where most of the kids came from similar backgrounds. At Williams, however, the availability of choices has blossomed into a whole realm of diversity. Students are often times multilingual and have lived in a number of different countries. Academic, extracurricular, and professional interests are diverse, bold, and innovative. This fosters an environment in which students are encouraged and are able to explore a wide range of subjects and activities, ultimately reaching their best choice.

Since coming to Williams, I have come to be much more appreciative and understanding of diversity. Every face here has a story to tell, and every story has great power behind it. Talking to anyone can turn into a time of inspiration, and this is why I love it here. Whether it is someone sitting next to you in Mathematics 105, or a Williams’s alum who is currently the Director of an Investment Bank in Wall Street, there is always so much to learn and to challenge one’s self with. I have had the opportunity to try, for the first time diving and canoeing. I also started studying French and Cantonese, besides Spanish.

My memorable experience in the US goes back to my first weeks at high school. Having spent the first 16 years of my life in China, I was unfamiliar with many idiomatic expressions, and cultural sensitivities in the US. Few weeks into my first semester in the US, my Mathematics teacher asked everyone in class to get a “hole-puncher”. Having not heard the term “hole-puncher” before, I conjectured its meaning. “Since to “punch” means to hit someone, the “hole” could refer to the damage after the hitting motion. “Hole-puncher” then could be referring to some sort of martial arts move!” But this got me worried because I was making association of the term with classroom violence. I went back to my host family, nervous and anxious about next week’s Math session at school. It was until one of my classmates brought the physical object, the real hole-puncher to class that I realized how wrong I was. I, of course did not have my hole-puncher and was embarrassed at my thought association and imagination of “violence in the classroom.” Looking back, such moments have only served to re-enforce my experiences in the US.