By Xinlan ‘Annie’ Chen, Dormitory Life Division Head
The first dorm student we will cover in our dorm student profile series is Emily Zhou, class of 2019, also named Zhou Shuyan (in Chinese, the last name goes in front of the first name). She was born on October 14th, 1999, also the year of rabbit, and she grew up in China’s biggest city and a global financial hub, Shanghai. Perhaps because she is used to the fast pace of living style in Shanghai, Shuyan is very active at LCA. She enjoys cross country in the fall, theatre in the winter, and lacrosse in the Spring, and she is also a part of the STEM concentration as well as the Peer Issue Group. Shuyan is very well-rounded, and this time, she welcomes us to explore some special sides of her.
Different from Germanic and Romance cultures where parents choose names for their children, Chinese culture requires parents to come up with the name –– a single character or combination of characters. Therefore, every name is unique and full of parents’ careful thoughts and considerations, and Chinese people seldomly meet someone with the same first name. In addition, characters in themselves usually have multiple meanings, so we asked Shuyan her parents’ wish behind the name. She explained, “so you know in Chinese culture there are five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, earth). When I was born, the fortune teller told my parents that I lacked water and fire, so they picked Shu (淑) with water component on the left, and Yan (炎) with character component of fire. ‘Shu’ means ‘lady’ and ‘elegant’, and to be honest, I have no idea why my parents chose ‘Yan’ besides the fire component. It is such an unusual [choice].” Her parents wanted her to be unique, harmonious in five elements (which leads to a blessed life), and elegant. In this name she treasures, her parents embedded all their best wishes and sent them along with her to wherever she goes.
Shuyan is not someone who is troubled by the Chinese student stereotypes of being good at math or getting good grades. She is very hard working, and her hard work pays off. Even before the interview started, Shuyan’s busy schedule already impressed our journalist. While usually students are free on Saturday evenings to socialize and entertain themselves, Shuyan still had a 3-hour class awaiting her. So we pushed our interview back to the next day and started out with questions regarding her schedule.
Shuyan told us, “Usually I will just like, go to my room, do my homework. That’s a lot of homework because right now I have 4 AP classes, and none of them are easy. Sometimes I will have some class for APs, especially for history and English because they are like my weakest classes.”
However, when asked if she is busy 24/7 because of the classes she is taking, Shuyan quickly interrupted and assured, “I also play. I hang out every weekend. I do boxing every Saturday, so it’s not like just academic. I also watch Netflix.” In addition to her ungirly hobby – boxing, She wanted to put out an ad for her “nail studio” which has an amazing collection of colors and styles with a price at $3 per person per appointment. At the end of our session, Shuyan insisted on mentioning that the first thing she wants to do after high school graduation is to get a certificate for nail technician! Below are some photos of some of her recent nail art!
She really enjoys her balance of school work and entertainment that she has planned for herself, and it was amazing to learn from this diligent student as well as someone who is passionate about life.
Being away from home, Shuyan has found ways to fill her life as well as deal with homesickness. You might imagine missing one’s homeland and parents being a significant part of an international student’s life, especially when one leaves home at a relatively young age (around 14-16), but this is not the case for Shuyan. She responded to this idea saying, “Homesickness? I never had those!” putting a firm ending to the topic, but she continued to talk about her parents. Shuyan said in a half-serious-half-playful tone, “I don’t really want to see my parents. Sometimes they are really annoying. My dad is super….. like obnoxious.” She paused to apologize for criticizing her father, and then she continued: “He is like, if he sees something (on my social media posts), he either hits ‘like’ or just comment something really weird, and we’d start talking back and forth in those long paragraphs. As a matter of fact, I feel like that’s more efficient than Facetiming. Both of us like typing and texting because we don’t talk about deep things during Facetime. However, if we text, we have the time to think and reflect on how do I feel recently.” Nevertheless, Shuyan admitted that the relationship between her and her family “had definitely changed, they care about me less (laughter)… okay, they still care about me, but not in those details. It’s more like ‘Okay, you are good, you are alive.’ It’s different from living together.” Shuyan did not directly say how much they love each other, but from her way of describing the relationship, the intimacy was clear. This is a very Chinese way of denoting love. She and her parents might not directly say “I love you” out loud to each other, but love is saturated into their actions and language, and they perceive this family treasure in a silent but sweet way.
Shuyan has shown us her way of managing her life away from home on a foreign land, an amazingly balanced way that we can all learn from. It is truly our privilege to have her in our community!