I was one of the first students to attend Duke Kunshan University, and finished my program there two years ago. Since then I have worked as a peer adviser for Duke Kunshan in my home university, and I’m proud to see a lot of students from here choosing to go to Duke Kunshan. This year, I was admitted to the MMS program at Duke Kunshan. I feel so fortunate to be able to go back where all my dreams begin, and it is an honor to share my Duke Kunshan story.
My home university is Shanghai International Studies University, or SISU. When I enrolled at the English School of SISU, most of my friends and relatives congratulated me and said that I would definitely become a good English teacher after graduation. At that point, I felt a great sense of powerlessness. I could envision my career and the rest of my life — working as an English teacher, entering a high school, working until retirement. I don’t mean to imply that being an English teacher is a bad job. But I was frightened by the idea of a future that could be completely predicted.
In my university, most of my classmates focused on English language, literature or translation. They were shinning stars in this field. But I always thought to myself “What else can I do?” “What do other university students do at their universities?” “Could I try something else?” “Could my life have more possibilities than being a teacher or an interpreter”
So I came to DKU in 2014. Interestingly, when I was applying for the Global Learning Semester program, faculty members at my university worried that I might be cheated by some diploma mill or fake university, for few people knew about Duke Kunshan at that time. But later this proved to be my wisest decision ever.
In August 2014, I arrived at Duke Kunshan, a place where I met incredible fellow students, the most highly respected professors, and the most helpful staff. The experience totally changed me. My view was quite narrow and limited when I was at my home university. But at Duke Kunshan, I met students from the best universities in the world, not only Duke but also Tsinghua University, Wuhan University, and Zhejiang University. And they all had different majors.
Moreover, the professors taught a wide range of subjects, so this gave me the chance to learn with students from other majors and other universities, and learn how people study other subjects. All of this was a constant reminder of how interested I was in the world beyond my own chosen field, and encouraged me to explore my new interests.
Before I went to Duke Kunshan, I was quite an ordinary person, but the environment and culture of the university helped me unlock my potential. What I learned at Duke Kunshan encourage me to become a better version of myself, to explore a bigger world, to take on bigger responsibilities and to make greater contributions to society.
Most importantly, as I continue to explore in life, I know I am not alone. My dear professors, classmates and even university staff are always there to help me. I think that’s why we Duke people always call ourselves a team.
When I was at Duke Kunshan for the Global Learning Semester (GLS) program, many of my classmates helped me study or encouraged me with their own experiences. I would also like to mention my dear friend Meredith Li. She was applying to Oxford university in 2014. Every night I went to the library, I would see Meredith sitting there preparing her application. And her persistence and courage inspired me to chase my dream after I graduated from SISU. And even after other students and I left Duke Kunshan, our warm relationship continued. We have had numerous gatherings and reunions in the past two years.
I continue to receive opportunities and assistance from the Duke Kunshan community. They let me know that I’m always a member of the team. And, as a team, we are always ready to support and help each other.
In short, the most valuable things I took away from my experience at Duke Kunshan University are the courage to chase my dreams and explore a new world, and my schoolmates, professors, faculty, my dear DKU team, my dear DKU family.
By Siyuan Sun, Global Learning Semester, Fall 2014