Saturday 14 Oct 2023
DSAS Graduates Ann Shen

The University of Chicago

Ann Shen, DSAS Grade 12 student

When people meet Ann Shen for the first time, they are often charmed by her warm smile, although most people will not realise that today’s ‘little ray of sunshine’ has also experienced depression in her life: "I sent my daughter to DSAS to prevent her from experiencing a monotonous learning experience. I hoped that she would not only gain a broader vision and study rich curriculum content, but that she would also have a more exciting life and be able to be a lively young person. We are very grateful to DSAS for creating a friendly and happy campus atmosphere, which not only protects a child's bright and free smile, but also gives us some unexpected surprises," said Ann’s mother.

From initial shyness and hesitation, Ann gradually faced the challenges of a new school. She admits that her legs shook when she stood on the volleyball court for the first time, as she had never played before. Now volleyball has become her favourite team sport. Gradually, Ann’s list of firsts grew longer and longer – her first English drama performance, her first volunteer work in the community, her first time as president of the student council and a student ambassador, her first debate in English...Through these firsts, Anxing gradually changed from a cautious student who was afraid of making mistakes into a confident and cheerful student who dares to say "YES" to challenges. A future leader with independent thinking and judgement.

"I like the inclusive atmosphere of our school the most. We can do anything to develop our interests,” Ann said.

When she was in grades 10 and 11, Ann and her classmates designed sweaters and bath towels embroidered with the DSAS logo, which sold out quickly: “Now when I walk past the gym, I'm proud to see my classmates using our towels in their swimming lessons," she said.

After entering the 12th grade, Ann had to abandon the project as the curriculum became increasingly demanding. She did, however, find the time to become one of the founders of the International Curriculum Centre (ICC) snack shop: "I am really grateful to our principal, Mr Stefan Sjodin, who has given us sufficient support and resources to pursue our interests and hobbies,” she said.

Sharp Yourself

A TOEFL score of 116 (out of 120), an SAT score of 1580 (out of 1600), an IGCSE score of five A*s (Chinese, mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics) and one A (English), the winner of Top in China mathematics…Ann Shen, one of the founding pupils at DSAS, has a near-perfect record in examinations.

In the 10th grade, Ann participated in the China high school group debate competition, ranking among Wuxi’s top 20 students and winning the title of ‘excellent debater’. However, she was not satisfied with the results, feeling that she and her teammates, who were attending the English-language debate competition for the first time, had been overwhelmed by more experienced students from other schools, who had been debating for many years.

Ann felt a little depressed after coming back from the competition. Her university counsellor Miya Yang, however, challenged her by asking: “Even if you knew you would not win the debate, would you still choose to participate?" Ann paused for a moment, then nodded: "Yes, because I'm happy," she replied.

At that moment, the haze in her heart dissipated: she was happy because she gained knowledge while preparing for the debate and because participating in the debate had improved her thinking skills. She was also happy after the competition because, no matter who won or lost, she had met many new like-minded friends.

While Ann may have not gained a satisfactory ranking in the debate competition, in her interview with the University of Hong Kong two years later, she unexpectedly found that the topic of the interview was exactly the topic she had prepared for day and night before. In that moment, all the losses she had felt were gone. When she confidently presented herself in the interview, she realised that all the effort you put into something eventually rewards you in some way.

Talking about why she chose to study psychology, Ann answered frankly: "I like working with people and I think it's a kind of cultivation."

As early as the summer holiday of her first year in the ICC, Ann went to Northwestern University to participate in the summer school programme at the university’s Center for Talent Development (CTD), where she began exploring her major.

In addition, Ann and other senior students also went to Hangzhou Qingshang nature education center to make a documentary together: "I like to write and do the narration, while the other students prefer the photography," she said. The documentary featured a group of students who had returned from overseas and who had chosen to join a group of left-behind children instead of finding a well-paid job in a big city. Ann filmed how they got along with the children and interviewed them about their educational philosophy and why they chose to return to China to support nature education. The six-week project gave Ann a preliminary understanding of the knowledge related to psychology and strengthened her interest in the subject: "I hope I can help people with my professional knowledge of psychology in the future,” she said.

When the seed of a dream is planted, anyone and anything will help it take root and grow. Like other young people, Ann’s interest in a subject depends on the teacher who teaches it: "I used to hate maths but when I came to DSAS, I started to have an interest in maths," she said. The reason why Ann fell in love with mathematics was, of course, her teacher, Mr Sam Jones. With Sam's teaching, Ann gained the Top in China award in mathematics for her IGCSE results.

Ms. Shani Goodson, Ann’s chemistry teacher, also had a great impact on her: "Chemistry is my favourite subject,” she said. “Ms. Goodson has both a chemistry and psychology background and she would often share psychology knowledge with us." Ann and her friends often chatted with Ms. Goodson in her classroom. Influenced by what she saw and heard, Ann became more and more interested in psychology.

As a result, Ann carried out various psychology-related projects within the DSAS community. She founded a psychology club for ICC students and regularly posted psychology-related articles on social media. The articles focused on how to deal with grief after the outbreak of COVID-19 and on trying to understand and heal the psychological impact of COVID-19 on people. Ann realised that her interest may be taken seriously as a future career.

In June, after rigorous selection, Ann was chosen for the Pioneer Academics project, which, through field surveys, delved into the mental health problems of long-distance truck drivers. As a result, she wrote a paper called ‘Burnout among long-distance truck drivers’. "My grandfather is a truck driver and he only comes home once or twice a week,” she said. “Does he miss home when he drives? What does he experience when driving the truck?" With these questions, she designed a questionnaire to carry out field investigations in various logistics centres in Wuxi. During her conversations with truck drivers, she came up with some unexpected insights: seemingly simple questions were actually difficult for the drivers, many of whom struggled to understand them because of their educational backgrounds. This made Ann feel a little guilty and she realised you have to spend time with people in order to truly know them.

It is Ann’s tireless pursuit of academic excellence, her focus on social issues, and her ability to improve the community and campus through her actions that have enabled the University of Chicago, one of the world's top universities, to see her potential as future change maker.

As the University of Chicago said in a letter: “The college's academic tradition has thrived because of students like you who crave ideas that captivate, provoke and transform.” During her three years at DSAS, Ann has gained qualities valued by top universities, opening the University of Chicago’s door to her through her accumulated knowledge and experience, and ensuring her a bright and challenging future.