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Evelyn Huang – Budding Anthropologist
Posted 03/30/2018 02:25PM

 

 

 

 Keystone Graduation|Evelyn

1

Cultural Infusion

 

Once a Grand Palace Museum intern, Evelyn exudes a zest for all things culture, native and foreign. Marked by a sense of belonging based in the memories of a childhood spent exploring and learning about China, Evelyn’s cultural background has colored her identity in myriad ways. “In primary school, my father took me to explore China. A terrific storyteller, he especially liked reading to me about the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, enriching my knowledge about Chinese history and understanding of our cultural traditions. My father would bring these stories to life by relying on his vivid imagination.”

 

Photo by Evelyn


Born, raised and educated in China, Evelyn’s parents have passed on to Evelyn their deep affinity for their Chinese roots, culture and heritage. Often, they would explore their hometown, visit museums and discuss the past, including the guqin’s 5000 year history and how this ancient seven-stringed zither is making a comeback. While her peers enrolled in piano and violin lessons, Evelyn cultivated a desire to study the guqin. As a result, her father engaged private guqin tutors for Evelyn, including a Central Music Conservatory graduate student who taught her for three years.

 


 Photo by Evelyn

 

“These three years were very crucial in helping me lay the foundation for my guqin playing. Mastering the guqin plucking is a complex endeavor and I am proud that I persevered. Occasionally, I play a song or just listen to the guqin to escape from reality and live the history of the song within its magnificent universe, “she offered.

 Photo by Evelyn

 

2

Chinese Thread Embodiment

 

When Evelyn gained an interest to study abroad at the start of junior high school, she considered joining Keystone for its blended education model, weaving the Chinese, American and international learning traditions. “My perspectives started to change and my mother had also advised me to learn another way and not to worry only about home. I was prepared to get a taste of traditions different from my own as long as I would be able to continue to nurture my interest in Chinese culture. Without it, my life would be less,” she shared. 

 

 

Drawn to the wealth of opportunities Keystone offers for cultural exploration, experiential learning, literature, art, and language within the Chinese context motivated Evelyn’s decision to enroll here. “Keystone offered a program in line with my educational interests and aspirations,” she confirmed.

 

In her first year, Evelyn benefitted from her teachers’ encouragement and her peers’ support with easing into the Keystone way of life at her home away from home.“Integrating and adjusting to this new school, curriculum, faculty, student peers and way of learning took me some time,” she shared, “I had to familiarize myself with voicing my ideas and opinions in front of the classroom, which took effort.”

 

With a soaring requirement for presentations and increasing opportunities for public speaking, Evelyn grew more comfortable as the year progressed. “It was painful at times, but in retrospect, even those times of adjustment now feel very rewarding. Sometimes, you need that extra push to carry on and stretch beyond your limits. Without those experiences, I could not have reached further.”

 

In due course, Evelyn also gained fluency in considering a blend of world perspectives and cultural angles and in regarding matters as objectively as possible. She learned how to write thesis statements in Chinese and English and studied literary works in both languages and from various eras. In addition, Evelyn assumed the role of dorm proctor, a leadership position in boarding life created to help plan and facilitate a pleasant and safe experience for all boarding students.

 

“If you take me now compared with three or four years ago, I simply cannot recognize myself. My lifestyle and my perspectives have changed and I am now able to experience culture through a different lens. It is not just about what these learning opportunities have taught me, but also how they have helped me open my eyes towards perceiving and sharing culture. When I visit a museum abroad, for example, I now try to connect what I experience there with my own culture. It gives me the feeling that the world is complex and beautiful at the same time.”

 

3

Anthropologist in Spe

 

Evelyn ’s binding interest has been the research of minority groups’ crafts in southern China. As part of her Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project, she spent her recent school breaks in the remote mountain villages of Guizhou to learn about and document the true essence of the traditional crafts of fabric dyeing and delicate embroidery by local ethnic groups. She also probed more deeply into how different ethnic groups value their skills and the history such a craftsmanship carries.

Photo by Evelyn 

 

For this, she interviewed the craftswomen, volunteered in the training program for embroiders, and recorded the stories and scenes she witnessed during her journey. “The Miao, for example, are an ethnic group that embroiders and records on their clothes their story and history through time,” explained Evelyn. “The threaded patterns of their embroidery convey their history and beliefs endowing hopes and wishes of life into the longitudes and latitudes of threads; women are empowered, materially and mentally, by these skills.”

Photo by Evelyn

 

Over time, her learning morphed into awareness building around these dying crafts. Invigorated by her new experiences and findings, she produced a documentary, which together with her fellow student Alice, she presented in front of captive audiences at school and around Beijing. Last autumn, they also organized pop-up exhibits to share their learning and invite appreciation for this art in an effort to revive it and ensure its continuation. 

 

4

Wesleyan University


Among the Keystone students who applied to colleges and universities through the early-decision admission cycle, Evelyn was the recipient of an early acceptance letter to Wesleyan University. “I chose to attend Wesleyan University because of the freedom and space it offers students to explore. I am very interested in cultural studies and film, and Wesleyan offers this combination. For me, this is the perfect choice for now as I define clear life goals for myself.”

 

Ranked #21 on the National Liberal Arts Colleges list of US News & World Report, Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut, founded in 1831. Evelyn plans to dedicate her time there to the study of anthropology, a perfect fit, if you ask her DP Chinese Literature Teacher, Hongwei Gao: “She is the person who likes to embrace all cultures, in addition to hers, exactly because of her understanding of and passion for her own culture and her strong identity. She is humble and open-minded towards all cultures and she gets the spirit of other cultures, while also reflecting on and being deep-rooted in her own culture.”

 

Like Wesleyan, Ms. Gao believes Keystone has been a perfect fit for Evelyn: “The seed had already been planted before Evelyn joined our school and it grew and blossomed at Keystone. We are lucky to have her as a student and Evelyn is lucky to have found such a good match for her learning needs. We are a good fit for each other.”

 

The Keystone Magazine

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