Sydney Lee is Headed to Columbia University
We had the opportunity to be in conversation with Year 13 student, Sydney Lee who took time from her busy schedule to chat to us about her school career, especially now that she is headed to one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the world, Columbia University to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree.
Similar to some of her YCIS Beijing schoolmates, Sydney’s eventual settling in Beijing involved a journey which included calling numerous countries home - in her case the United States, a transition period in South Korea, the Philippines, and for the past six years China. Although she does not have memories of her time in the United States as she left when she was just two years old, she attributes the Philippines to her appreciation for nature and the urban city culture due to the juxtaposition between the two.
“There were a lot of opportunities for me to develop an interest in the things surrounding me and also an opportunity to receive an international school education” she shared.
An Open-minded Global Citizen
Her experience of living abroad from the age of four established the American born Korean student as a curious and open-minded individual she has grown to be. “my experience of living in a variety of countries has given me the ability to be very open-minded to try different things. It has also allowed me a unique perspective where I am easily able to acknowledge and accept differences in different people and cultures.”
Campus Life Memories
Her expatriate status could also be one of the reasons the ambivert has been able to associate with her classmates whom she believes would describe her as “calm, inquisitive and studious”. These are the same classmates she has been able to create memories with throughout her time here. “I remember my first day of school at YCIS Beijing because it was such a big change” Sydney recalled. This was the first move she remembered as the others were undertaken when she was still a young girl. What stood out for her during this moment was meeting fellow learners from different countries, which contrasted her previous school experience where students tended to attend the same institution from the first grade to the last.
Although that was one of her most memorable experiences, it also came with the downfall of having to say goodbye to friends after a while.
Another memory Sydney will have etched in her mind is when she was a Student Ambassador during an Open Day. During the visit, she participated by giving a tour of our campus and facilities to prospective parents and sharing with them why she enjoys being a student at YCIS Beijing. A proud moment for the art aficionado.
A Creative Mind
Art in its entirety is Sydney’s passion and calling, therefore, having the opportunity to display her work in a gallery was noteworthy. “When I was in Year 12. I got to exhibit one of my painting for the first time in a “real” gallery.” The gallery in reference is M Woods, an independent, non-profit art museum situated in the Beijing art hub, 798 Art District. This was a moment worth patting herself on the back for.
“I have the drive to create artwork and place value in the act of having the audience interact with whatever art piece that I’m creating” she expounds.
This was not the first time Sydney’s artwork was on display. In 2018 she had her artwork on the cover of INKBEAT Youth Journal – a literary journal that celebrates the writing and art of students in the Beijing area with her classmate, Amy Yin. For that edition, she explains that “what initially inspired the artwork was the complexity of human facial expressions. Personally, humans are my favourite subject to work with, as I have always been deeply interested in the way that we work and function” which may be why one of her favourite subjects is Biology.
Part of her love for the subject and advocacy also led her to her involvement in the Period Project which seeks to fundraise and raise awareness about period poverty which affects disenfranchised girls in rural China. After the introduction of the concept a few years ago, Sydney and some of her colleagues decided to take over the project and serve the community. “Students at our school have a level of privilege that we should recognize and there are girls who are in much less privileged positions that we decided we would like to support.” expressed the future donor.
Her involvement extends to the Student Leadership, where she was a member since Year 9 and later became a Co-Executive. During her tenure, they relaunched the YCIS Beijing Film Festival, got involved with charity work and even collaborated with the Parent Organisation in organizing the Christmas Bazaar.
The Journey to Columbia
All the above-mentioned activities in addition to her academic competencies undeniably contributed to her acceptance to Columbia University, a private Ivy League research university in New York City which boasts prominent figures such as Elaine Chao, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Neil deGrasse Tyson amongst others as their alumni.
About her decision to choose the Big Apple based institution Sydney said “the main thing that attracted me to Columbia was the core curriculum that they’ve had for about 100 years now, where students with varying academic interests and expertise in different fields have the same core courses such as Literature and Humanities” which for her was a positive because it will allow for her and her fellow scholars to join in discussions relating to the given material – something she thoroughly enjoys.
Another appeal for Sydney was the cosmopolitan city of above 18 million people, where she will have access to art museums such as the distinguished Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) “I did have in mind that at some point in my life I want to live in New York. I didn’t know that was going to be as soon as I graduated High School, so I’m quite excited about that” said the soon to be freshman.
For her college application preparation, Sydney focused on the things she was interested in like the arts to ensure that that is portrayed in her application and worked diligently on her visual arts portfolio for a year before submitting it as her supplement to her application.
“The American college system is difficult to predict” she stated skeptically, therefore, she advised doing the things you are good at to the best of your ability.
Eye-opening as the process was for her, with her having to do some self-introspection, she also acknowledges how challenging this process can be for students due to juggling IB courses, SATs, or creating portfolios.
But now that the application is complete, it is time to enjoy her new life in her dream city. “I got into Columbia with my best friend! And it’s college - and a new learning experience, but I am excited about meeting new people and experiencing new things,” she said.
Life is going to be a little different without her family and YCIS Beijing friends that she has gotten to know so well in the past few years.
Sydney is currently undecided on which major to pursue since she has until her second year of studying to make up her mind, but she is gravitating towards a double major in Visual Arts, Film or Creative Writing.
With her return to the United States, Sydney Lee, a true global citizen has come full circle!