Alex Gitsis

Class Year: 

2009
Hometown: Staten Island, New York, USA

School: 

Stuyvesant High School

Language: 

Japanese
Being a student in the Huntsman Program has allowed me the pleasure of meeting the most well-rounded individuals I could ever hope to find on a college campus. This is a quality that will take them far in life.

Why Huntsman?

Alex's family emigrated from Ukraine when he was only three years old. He grew up in Brooklyn and attended Stuyvesant High School, where he discovered a propensity for Mathematics, an interest in economics and a fascination with the Japanese language. The most appealing thing about the Huntsman Program was that it seemed open-ended, in the sense that it would offer a broad-based skill set that could open doors to many different careers.

As a student in the Program, Alex chose a Finance concentration because he loves the mathematical aspects of it, but he is still interested in a number of different topics, including Physics, Math, Education and Social Policy. One of his favorite classes here at Penn has been an elective course on Criminal Justice! He enjoys reading both contemporary fiction and Japanese anime. Alex isn't sure what the future holds for him, but he's considering a career in international affairs. He feels that the breadth of the education he's received in the Huntsman Program will have prepared him well for whatever path he chooses to follow.

Greek Life

When he arrived on campus, Alex had no interest in joining a fraternity. But when a Huntsman upperclassman introduced him to the brothers at Delta Upsilon, he was pleased to discover that they were all intelligent, interesting people and not at all like the stereotypical "frat boys" he had imagined. He ended up joining the fraternity along with two of his friends from the Huntsman Program, and in his sophomore year, took on a role as Spring Rush Chair. His responsibilities included scheduling two weeks of events and he learned a lot about good leadership and teamwork in the process.

Study Abroad in Japan

Alex began studying Japanese in high school on a whim, when a friend suggested that they take a class together. That friend eventually dropped the class, but Alex fell in love with the language. He had grown up in a bilingual household, but found that Japanese grammar was unlike anything he'd ever seen. As he learned more, he found that Japanese culture was also unique. He didn't know much about East Asia, so he saw the region as new and interesting and hoped to continue exploring it as a college student.

At the end of his freshman year with the Huntsman Program, Alex went abroad for the first time since moving to the United States as a child. He won a Freeman Asia Scholarship and received a Huntsman Summer Study Grant to spend two months in a small port town in Japan. It was a summer of firsts for Alex - he even learned to ride a bike for the first time and found out that he has a passion for cycling. He lived with a Japanese family, enjoying many traditional home-cooked meals. During his last week, he joined the town in celebrating its annual Squid Festival.

Alex says that his summer study experience solidified his interest in Japan and made for an easy decision to return and spend his entire junior year in Tokyo at Hitotsubashi University. He did not regret that decision in the least - in fact, he says that he's really glad he stayed for a full year because it gave him enough time to adjust and to establish real relationships with the people he met there. Alex says that Tokyo is an "awesome" city but even for a New Yorker like himself, it can be overwhelming at times. The University campus, however, was located in a quaint town in the suburbs with a lot of culture. He met many interesting people there and, what's more, he got to know them really well.