Calvert Holt

Class Year: 

2013
Hometown: Hamilton, Massachusetts, USA

School: 

Phillips Exeter Academy

Language: 

Chinese (Mandarin)
I knew that Huntsman would be the best preparation an undergraduate education could give me, by offering the business fundamentals and also the opportunity to delve into the Chinese language and develop a cultural understanding of China and of all global cultures. Had I gone anywhere else I would have only been trying to re-create the Huntsman Program.

Why Huntsman?

Growing up in Massachusetts, Calvert (Cal) knew that he wanted to study Chinese ever since middle school. A class trip to a preserved Qing Dynasty merchant home at the Peabody Essex Museum gave him the idea to build a model replica, a project for which he researched Chinese architecture. This led to an interest in the country’s rich history and culture, so when it came time to choose a high school he enrolled in a boarding school where he could study the language. During his high school years at Exeter, he studied abroad in Taiwan twice, once in the summer and again in the winter of his senior year. Cal also discovered that he tended towards, and enjoyed, the business side of all his co-curricular activities, whether as treasurer of student council, vice chairman of the school newspaper’s business board, or as proctor for his dorm planning budgets and event fundraising.

When looking at colleges, Cal wanted a program that would allow him to combine these two interests because he felt that “At the basic level, all cultural and international interactions are driven by trade, so you need to understand not only the underlying business, but also the cultural component.” He knew several students from high school who had matriculated in the Huntsman Program and spoke highly of the combined curriculum. Everywhere he looked it seemed like he was searching for exactly what the Huntsman Program offered.  “I knew that Huntsman would be the best preparation an undergraduate education could give me, by offering the business fundamentals and also the opportunity to delve into the Chinese language and develop a cultural understanding of China and of all global cultures.  Had I gone anywhere else I would have only been trying to re-create the Huntsman Program.”

The Huntsman Experience

Living with his Huntsman classmates on the same floor in Kings Court during freshman year exposed Cal to a diverse group of students who had similar international interests. “The fact that there are so many different cultures within the program really broadens your perspective. In a way, it is similar to going abroad.” Cal feels that the lasting relationships he has built with his peers are something he will take with him wherever he goes. “Of course I’m getting a great education, but the people you meet and the experiences you have are what really matter in the long run.“

At Penn, Cal has been able to apply his business skills in a number of co-curricular activities. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Student Federal Credit Union, one of only two fully student run credit unions and the only one in the Ivy League, Cal gained first-hand experience of what it’s like to run a financial institution. “You learn about both the front-line of the business, interacting with customers, and about the regulatory environment, since we are federally insured,” says Cal. As a member of the Huntsman Student Advisory Board, Cal enjoys being in a position to bring everyone together and aims to enhance the student experiences in the Program. Cal also finds time to explore his interests off campus, especially competing on the UPenn sailing team at the Corinthian Yacht Club.

Cal likes the interdisciplinary approach to his academics. One of his favorite classes thus far has been European Art & Civilization before 1400, which he says “may seem random. I took it to fulfill an Arts requirement and ended up loving it. Because our professor specialized in archeology, we looked at each piece through a much more historical lens.” In the class, students analyzed art dating as far back as cave paintings and the pre-renaissance period, exploring how cultures have interacted through art. “After taking mostly theoretical and social science courses, it was a completely different way to study culture and cross-cultural trends.”

Cal has declared a Wharton concentration in finance and is also considering management or accounting. He is still uncertain about his post-graduate career plans, but is considering a path in banking because it “gives you a comprehensive understanding of how companies grow and expand.” He would also like his career to have an international aspect, preferably one that involves companies expanding and growing overseas, whether it’s an American company expanding into China or vice versa.

Study abroad at Tsinghua University in Beijing

While Beijing was not Cal’s first time studying abroad in the Far East, it was the first time he was directly enrolled in a Chinese university taking classes alongside Chinese and other degree seeking students at Tsinghua University. “Beijing is a much larger and more pivotal city than Taichung (where I was in Taiwan). Just traveling around the city itself made you feel as if you were going through different parts of China.”  Cal also had time to travel extensively throughout China, especially the inner regions. “It underscored how China is still largely a developing country.  You could go somewhere and experience a completely rural landscape, followed by a visit to an ultramodern metropolis like Shanghai.  It was interesting to see such different and contrasting regions that still had so much in common.”

For Cal, one of the more surprising parts of studying abroad was not only learning how to live in a foreign country, but also learning how to live on his own; something he quickly discovered the day his apartment ran out of hot water. After speaking with neighbors who were not experiencing the same problem, Cal and friends assumed their hot water heater must have been broken and called their landlord. “He must have been very annoyed with us as they had inspected pipes and reset devices until they discovered we had not prepaid the utilities.” Cal and his roommates definitely learned their lesson, as they waited for the banks to open and endured several frigid showers as part of a new cultural experience.