Charlie grew up in downtown Philadelphia - his college dorm room is actually closer to his parents' house than his high school was. At first, he didn't want to attend university so close to home, but says it's turned out to be a great asset.
Charlie's mother and grandfather were entrepreneurs, so business was in his blood. His dad had lived in several countries and had friends all over the world, so Charlie had the opportunity to travel and knew that he was interested in learning about how other people live. Charlie began studying Chinese in 8th grade. "I never really thought it would take me anywhere," says Charlie, "but it has." During high school, Charlie had the opportunity to go to China twice. He says that the trips did involve some sightseeing, but they also involved some community service and fundraising, which allowed him to see another side of the country.
Both sides of the Program interested him separately, so "you put them together and you have a unique opportunity that you really can't find anywhere else," says Charlie. "It's perfect if this is what you're interested in."
"My favorite part of being a Huntsman student is the people," says Charlie. When he came to visit the Program on Huntsman Day, he met a lot of amazing people, most of whom ended up joining him at King's Court English House that August. He loved the experience of living together on the third floor of King's Court freshman year. As a sophomore, he chose to live with seven fellow huntsman students, some of his closest friends, and he hopes to live with them once again when he returns from his semester abroad.
The Huntsman Experience
Charlie is leaning towards a Finance concentration in Wharton, but also finds Accounting really interesting, though he claims he's terrible at it. In the College, one of Charlie's favorites has been an Asian History Course about Japan during the warring states period, in which students "got to watch a lot of movies about samurai." In general, Charlie says that he enjoys taking classes outside of his comfort zone. Most recently, this has meant learning about plate tectonics in a geology class. "You learn something new every day if you're not careful," warns Charlie.
As a representative on the Huntsman Student Advisory Board, Charlie has enjoyed the opportunity to become close friends with Huntsman upperclassmen. "Getting to know people in the grades above you is such an asset," says Charlie. His friends in other years help him find out which teachers hold better office hours and which courses suit his tastes - both in terms of subject matter and teaching style.
Another of Charlie's favorite activities is the Penn China Student Connection, a club started by a Huntsman upperclassman. Charlie is co-director of the club's pen pal network, which pairs Penn students with their peers at Beida (Peking University). Even more than helping organize the program, Charlie enjoys his own pen pal exchange, through which he gets to learn interesting new things about everyday life at Beida. Charlie's letters switch back and forth between English and Mandarin. He says that what he loves about this group is that it doesn't just look at a culture from the outside, but "really gets you inside - it's about the exchange of ideas and culture and information."
Summer Study in China
After his freshman year, Charlie received partial funding from the Huntsman Program to spend a summer in Beijing for an intensive language training program. He arrived just in time for the summer Olympics and says it was the best timing of anything that's ever happened to him. Though he'd been to China before, Charlie had never stayed for so long. For the first two weeks of the summer program, he felt very homesick. After not too long, though, Charlie says, "I fell in love with the program and with the people and culture.
One of Charlie's favorite memories from the summer was attending the America vs. Nigeria soccer game with another American student. When Nigeria scored, he noticed that people were looking at him and his friend, expecting a reaction. When America scored, Charlie and his classmate cheered heartily until they realized that the entire section had turned to take photos of them!
According to Charlie, "the Olympics enhanced the experience - they certainly didn't make it." Charlie spent most of his time in Beijing working to improve his Mandarin skills. Each day, he would participate in two one-on-one sessions with a language instructor. He says that at first they would go over the lesson for the day, but then switch to conversation practice. He remembers having friendly hour-long debates with one of his teachers about the Chinese government. Another teacher asked him one day to teach him how to play baseball. "That was a tough forty minutes," says Charlie, "but it was fun."