Student: Lucy Liu | College: Vanderbilt University
Introduction: Lucy and her mom came to us back in 2015 seeking guidance on how to build on Lucy’s impressive academic credentials and boost her overall profile to better prepare her for the college application process with a goal of appealing to highly selective universities. Lucy worked hard in school and achieved excellent grades, but she needed further direction toward college. We helped instill in her a greater sense of purpose and stronger work ethic that has seen her excel now as she enters her junior year at Vanderbilt University.
We caught up with Lucy after a recent visit to Beijing and got together for a nice chat.
1.) Tell me about your experience at Vanderbilt, now two years later. You’re entering into your junior year.
It’s good overall. The classes are hard; college is not easy. At first I wasn’t used to college life and the experience was more difficult in the first year. Now I’m getting more and more used to it. I have more friends and am more familiar with how the professors teach their courses.
I was pretty nervous at first; I wasn’t really confident in English at that time, especially the writing part. I took a first year writing class; the workload was a lot and the professor was pretty tough. I struggled with that class for a while. Every day the professor assigned a writing assignment—I would stay up to midnight and sometimes later to finish!
I took two more writing classes afterward which turned out to be fine. I also learned how to communicate with professors. They’re all pretty nice. They were helpful to me to learn how to study and solve my questions after class. So it all turned out to be fine.
2.) What’s the international community like there?
Vanderbilt is a diverse school but maybe not as many international students as may be in other colleges like in California or some other public universities. I think it’s getting more and more international students throughout the years. Basically it’s great
We’ve got the clubs and student organizations for Asian students, and Chinese students; we’ve also got the international student community for all the Chinese people at Vanderbilt. So overall it’s not bad.
I think the college is pretty inclusive.
At first I didn’t think it would be easy to fit in, but as time goes by it’s gotten much better.
3.) What is the best thing about studying at Vanderbilt so far? What do you find unique about the university or surprising maybe…
Overall the experience is quite good. Some of the best things… the campus is not bad. There are many trees and squirrels, very natural surroundings. The college campus is good, but overall I would say the city is just okay. I mean it’s a good place to visit the city when you’re eighteen maybe, but I don’t know about when I’m older.
You get to meet people from all over the world. That’s something I wouldn’t get studying in China. I have a couple of high school friends who are now in Chinese university; they have something they’re good at and special at. I just feel like I learn more insights and learn different experiences being here.
4.) What are some activities you’re involved with there? Briefly describe…
We have one called Alternative Spring Break (ASB), it’s like a service part where you spent your spring break to go out and perform services around the community. My group went to Philadelphia to an immigration office to help with people who came to the US as refugees to help them learn English and get to know about American culture. We’d spend time with them in the afternoons. In the mornings we’d visit elementary schools and meet children of those refugees who were there to learn English.
I like the experience overall. I really like the time to interact with the refugees—I learned a lot. They came to the States because their families or countries are under stress. I don’t think they’re having the best time here since most don’t speak English. Most of them are in their 30s and 40s and it’s not easy for them to learn and adapt.
It’s not like learning English in China where there are many teachers who will teach you; many of the teachers are Americans who don’t know their native languages. So it makes things a bit more difficult for them I think. You need to sleep in the sleeping bags; get up at 7 and sleep at midnight. But the overall experience is great. I enjoy doing the community service.
5.) What’s your favorite local food since you’ve been there?
Nashville Hot Chicken, it’s a spicy hot chicken dish that I really like. It’s fried, and one of the specialties around there. There’s a restaurant called Hattie B’s that’s really good.
6.) What advice would you give to other students planning to attend university overseas?
I would say to learn more about what you’re interested in, not what other people think you should know. I know like many Chinese parents think their children should focus on AP and all the “academic stuff”… that’s important but it’s not the hardest process there. What’s more important is to focus on what you really like, and what activities you want to do in the college. Of course classes are important but it’s not all that matters.
Do something that you’re really interested in.