1. Why did you choose SILS for your undergraduate education?
SILS has a double degree program with my home institute. Different from other exchange programs that our home institute also provides, this one is more intense and more demanding since we have to complete about 64 credits within a year. But I think this is what it costs to actually have a rewarding experience studying overseas. And I believe all the efforts are worth it.
2. In what country were you born and/or raised, and did you ever live in an English-speaking country before you enrolled at SILS?
I was born and raised in Shanghai, China. I have been to America once before I went to SILS. But it was a short trip, 2-week in length. I visited several famous universities there, namely, Harvard, MIT.
3. When did you first plan to prepare for graduate school?
I wanted to actually go to America for undergraduate studies when I was in my senior high. However, after talking with my teachers and parents, I found I was not that prepared to go and the financial situation of my family then was not good enough to support my studies. So I gave up. But this dream stayed with me.
Since day one in university, I have reached out to those sempais who managed to go aborad. A good talk with them gave me a pretty clear idea what it takes to make it. TOEFL, GRE and all other standardized tests are not virtually a problem for me. They are not that important in determining the final results either.
With all said, the real issue for me is major. My major is my home institute is communication. It is a highly abstract, academic-oriented and comprehensive subject. It starts by looking at daily issues but evolves into a field full of jargons and concepts. Despite the fact I do appreciate the insightfulness of those brilliant theories, I doubt their practicality. Personally I am a little idealistic. Like many young people, I want to help, contribute and to make a difference of this “corrupt world”. Yet, communication is not the answer. I am dying for something more practical, more substantial, more “real”.
This is basically my mindset when I tried to decide my graduate school major and also before I was enrolled in SILS two years ago.
4. Did your studies at SILS help you find the specific field of your interest or focus of your post-graduate studies? If so, could you elaborate on that process? Were there any other sources of information that helped you make this decision?
Before going to Japan, I was asked to choose a seminar topic which would stick with me for my whole year. The list of choices was surprisingly long. Maybe it was too long for me since I was not used to be given that great power to choose in Chinese education system.
Then I found this: human rights! Ah, I was thrilled at the first sight of this topic. It was like the perfect answer for my search. I then further read the description which confirmed my instinct. With no time wasted, I opened a new word document to write the application essay required. Now looking back, this is really one of the most important and wisest decisions I have ever made.
Professor Waters is my seminar professor. His teaching method is tough, admittedly, long readings to do every week, intense classroom debate with no time for a break for 90 minutes. But still, I could in fact see the progress I myself have been making. My reasoning, logic and critical thinking ability were all enhanced through this experience. More importantly, I found my passion. I found myself fascinated by these legal issues and awed by their significance in human history. Law might be the subject I have been seeking eagerly, I thought after one semester. So I approached the professor and asked his advice on that. He has been really helpful on this and also students he referred to me also turned out to be great resources for me to explore real law school life before hand and make a more informed decision concerning my future.
5. How did you choose the particular graduate school in which you enrolled?
Largely based on ranking. I got admitted by four schools ranking respectively, 6, 11, 12, 14. So no hesitation I chose the highest one. Besides, it gave me money, not much but decent.
6. What do you think SILS undergraduate students should know about your program of graduate study? For example, was your program more difficult or easier than you expected before you began your graduate studies? If you made any mistakes or would do anything differently as a graduate student, what recommendations can you make to others to avoid or overcome any problems you encountered in your studies?
Sorry, I am in no position to answer this. I have not started my studies yet. All I have is hearsay.
7. Have you completed your graduate studies and, if so, have you secured employment in your chosen field?
No not started yet. But I heard 98% of my program graduates would be employed within half year after graduation. So I am praying for the best.
8. Do you consider any language other than English to be important in your field of graduate study? If so, which language(s)?
Oh, I definitely think my second foreign language Japanese and my mother tongue Mandarin have both made my skill set more appealing to employers and the admission committees that decided to admit me. Westerners want to know East Asia and let’s take the opportunity.
9.Can you recommend any sources of information to current SILS students who may be interested in your field of graduate study?
Absolutely go to talk to some wonderful professors in law. Professor Waters is one but there are also several others you can find. Then talk to alumnus if you can. Individual experiences of Sempais are very useful. Finally you may want to visit some online websites and forums. All these you are able to find from Google searches.
But be aware. It is very very very important to remember two points, a) no one knows what is good for you better than yourself; b) be critical about every pieces of information you have gathered.