Monday 16 Oct 2023
DSAS Graduates Eric Jiang

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795 - making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. The university was named a Public Ivy by Richard Moll in his 1985 book The Public Ivies: A Guide to America's Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities, and in later guides by Howard and Matthew Greene.

Many alumni have attained local, national, and international prominence. North Carolina has produced one president, one vice president, many United States Senators, 3 astronauts and many business leaders of the Global 500.

Eric Jiang, DSAS Grade 12 student

At DSAS, trees offer a pleasant shade surrounded by the sound of bird song. It is common to see insects on the paths. One day, Eric was walking past the school canteen and stopped when he saw a big insect. He bent down to take a closer look and blurted out its name. Some of the students did not believe him at all. The researched on google and found that it was exactly as Eric had said.

In the 2021 application season, Eric received many offers from top universities in the world. These included the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Florida, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Edinburgh, University College London, King's College London, McGill University and the University of British Columbia, Canada. All offers were to major in entomology, biology, ecology and environment.

At DSAS, students are encouraged to develop their interests in a particular area. Eric has clear goals for professional studies, extra-curricular activities and overseas studies which helped him to win the favor of so many university admissions teams.

Insect Enthusiast

" Nature controls all that is ingenious and harmonious. " From 5 years old, Eric has been captivated by a wonderful world depicted by Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre in ‘Souvenirs Entomologiques’. Eric progressed from the picture book to the simplified text version leading on to the 900,000-word text version which cultivated Eric’s impression of nature. "There was something that fascinated me - it was the magic of nature," Said Faber – a comment Eric strongly agrees with.

Eric in 2012

Eric spent his daily life observing nature in various ways. During time spent outdoors, Eric would hang cicadas on his clothes, collect snails from the mud using his own little handkerchief and chase toads whilst playing in the park. He would feed the small insects that his grandfather prepared to the birds and encourage his grandfather to catch fireflies in the wilderness. These fond memories form Eric’s daily life as a child. “We gave him the nickname 'Chongchong' which means insect in Chinese and maybe that is why he loves insects.” Eric’s mum said with a smile.

Eric's parents widely supported his interest. "I often took him to the insect museum in Shanghai when he was a child, and I bought some insects for him to keep and study. When he was very young, we bought microscopes and other observation tools. and he bought various insect breeding tools as he got older. Whenever he went on a trip, he would bring along equipment to study local insects, and we would usually cooperate with him." Said Eric’s mom.

Some days, Eric’s parents would often feel apprehensive. They did not know what Eric would bring home. Snails and pill-bugs were common and sometimes even screwworms, millipedes and particular variety of cockroaches. Eric’s mother had struggled to overcome her intense fear of insects before accepting that Eric had a special hobby. One day, Eric "informed" his parents that he would exchange insects with a friend he met online who was to travel from Changzhou to Jiangyin during the weekend to collect them. His parents were shocked. It seemed a bit inappropriate to meet an online friend at such a young age and they did not know if the friend was kind. However, they did not want to break the promise between them. Eric’s parents suggested that they met at a park near their home. They could watch from a far making them feel more at ease. Finally, Eric met his online friend for the first time where they successfully exchanged insects.

Finding a dream‘incubator’

Eric's parents consider themselves open-minded. In 2017, his mother was particularly touched when she watched the movie "Coco" with Eric. In the film, the character Miguel’s dream of becoming a musician was not supported by his parents. Eric cried in silence as he watched this film. His mother realised that even though she thought she had given Eric enough support, his lack of opportunity to develop his own niche hobby was causing him to experience frustration. Eric’s emotions resonated strongly with Miguel in the film. Eric's mother made a secret decision to give her son improved support. She decided to send him to an international high school.

In the last summer of Junior High, Eric's parents heard about the international high school programme. Eric had a lot of homework to prepare him for study. He needed to improve his English skills in order to be successful in entry assessments for a number of international schools. After successful admissions, Eric decided to give up the traditional Chinese education and chose Nanwai King’s College School. "When you know nothing, you resist change. When you are fully aware, you will transform naturally. Your choice depends entirely on your perception of things and of yourself." Said Eric’s mom, reflecting on the journey of choosing DSAS.

After entering DSAS, Eric adjusted his learning methods as the education system changed. With increased independent study time, Eric eventually achieved 5 A* in his final exams and in the IGCSE Global Examinations afterwards. After entering high school, Eric’s initiative and communication skills were developed through positive interaction with teachers, who were very friendly and emphasized equal communication.

During the first mid-term examination in Grade 11, Eric failed to achieve an A in one of the lessons because he did not complete his homework properly. He actively communicated with his teacher by email and proposed to increase his homework grade by making up and doing more homework in order to improve his mid-term grade. Although he was unsuccessful in the end, he deserves recognition for his active attitude to improve his situation.

The open campus atmosphere at DSAS’s helps students to explore abilities beyond academics. Students are encouraged to create their own CCA courses. Eric originally planned to establish an insect club. However, he found it difficult to recruit students. After much thought, Eric established an online writing club which has attracted many students. There are a few writing enthusiasts in his class. "This positive creative atmosphere is inseparable from the school's open-minded philosophy, where all interests can be understood, no matter what they are, even the online writing, which most parents see it as 'an improper job'." The school hopes to consciously develop students' core literacies and competencies as they apply theory into practice.

From niche to outstanding

Eric's love of insects is supported at DSAS. As entomology is a niche subject, Eric actively searched online MOOC courses to expand his knowledge in entomology under the guidance of his teachers. During the epidemic, in addition to completing the school curriculum, Eric took a course called Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions offered by the University of Alberta, Canada on Coursera.

During the summer of Grade 11, the epidemic prevented Eric from attending summer school in the USA, but this did not diminish his dedication to continuing his exploration of entomology. He enrolled in a six-week online credit course at Cornell University. In this Biomedical Terminology class, he was the only high school student studying with college students, learning about the origins and composition of biological terminology from Latin and Greek. He eventually achieved an A grade.

"Understanding is stimulated by love." Eric not only loves small animals, but he is also very concerned about the protection of animal rights. In his search for various insects, he has witnessed the indifference of people towards the protection of insects. He urges people to raise awareness of the importance of all components of the biota food chain and hopes that people can successfully understand it in the near future.

"It is the possibility of realising dreams that makes life interesting." Every child grows up with a dream. Whether it can blossom depends on their own beliefs, the support of their family and a nurturing environment. Dreams are the treasures that every child has and those are the most important things to respect and cherish as educators.

From the field of insects to the wider area of biology, Eric’s journey to self-discovery is just beginning…