When she was two years old, Lulu’s family moved to Oregon from her birthplace, Xiamen, China. She still speaks Chinese with her parents and grandparents and has always had an interest in international affairs. She participated in her high school’s Model UN club and dreamed of becoming an ambassador.
During high school, Lulu had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to help build a science lab. She says it was a huge culture shock. On another trip, to teach kindergarten in China, she learned to understand different learning styles and had a chance to see the city of her birth.
Though she’s already fluent in Chinese, Lulu wanted a chance to study French in college. “I love everything French,” she says, “—the food, the people… I don’t know where it’s going to take me but it’s a good thing to have.”
Study Abroad in Lyon
When Lulu first arrived to Penn her French needed a lot of work. Thanks to a summer study grant sponsored by the Huntsman Program, she studied abroad in Tours for six weeks to improve her language skills. Although the learning curve was really steep, Lulu felt that the experience was a great introduction to French culture.
Lulu spent the fall of her junior year studying abroad in Lyon where she became totally immersed in her French community. She met many French students who seemed more at ease trying new things and opened Lulu up to the possibility of different career paths. Lulu will never forget sitting by the river after class with her friends and speaking French to one another. “It was a really great way to practice.”
Lulu’s host family was also a valuable part of her cultural exchange. Every night the family would eat dinner together and she was able to practice her French, discussing everything from education to politics. Through the experience, Lulu recognized that her host family wasn’t that different from her own.
The Huntsman Experience
While moving from the west coast to the east was a big change for Lulu, what has been even more eye-opening was how international all of her Huntsman friends are. “It’s nice being in a program that is so multi-cultural.” Lulu feels that because of Huntsman there are a lot more doors open for her. “If I want to go anywhere in the world I’ll have a place to stay, and even if I don’t, I know I can find my way around.”
As freshman Lulu had very set goals for her college career, but “one of the best things I’ve learned here is taking the time to step back to decide if this is really what I want, and being okay with doing that.” Lulu had first declared a major in finance but switched to Operations Management which she feels is a good mix of psychology and business. She is even thinking about grad school for Psychology down the road, something she says she wouldn’t have considered before.
In addition to academics, Lulu is a member of the Wharton Communications Advisory Board, a group that helps students develop effective communications skills through lectures, workshops and speaking engagements. One such lecture taught international students how to participate in class. They conducted mock interviews with juniors and more than half of the junior class participated.
During on campus recruiting in her junior year Lulu was offered a consulting position with IBM in Chicago. She hopes to eventually get put on international projects in France where she can use her language skills. After graduation Lulu plans to spend a month in China with her family before heading to the mid-west.