This article will provide a glimpse into Sissi Feng Nuanxi’s student journey from a shy high school student at ESC to a thriving college student at one of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the U.S with a Fall 2020 acceptance rate of a mere 9%.
Sissi is one of our wonderful ESC alumni who is currently studying at Bowdoin College, a highly selective and prestigious liberal arts college in Maine. Sissi joined ESC in the fall of her Gao 2 year as a student from the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (RDFZ). At ESC, Sissi was an active member of our ESC community and a brilliant student with a sweet demeanor. Under the guidance of her ESC counselors, she worked on a variety of impressive projects such as an interview project researching the impacts of gender and class in education in Bangladesh. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she completed her first year of college remotely from Beijing, taking classes from 9 PM to 2, sometimes 3 AM. While some of her classes had asynchronous options, Sissi expressed the comfort in sharing ideas and being connected with fellow classmates discussion-heavy classes such as anthropology during the pandemic. As a sophomore, this is her first year actually on campus studying in-person!
Sissi was “really happy” with her application experience, and she does not have any regrets even though she did not get into either of her early decision schools at the time. Looking back, Sissi recalled receiving the most support from ESC in developing her extracurriculars when she was a Junior Scholar, in figuring out what types of schools were most suited for her during application season, and in feeling supported as a student during a high-stress time:
“[ESC helped me by] first of all planning out extracurricular activities…the Bangladesh [project] was definitely one of the highlights of my application. And I think in terms of finding the type of school or type of environment you really want to go to, the school research process. I’m really glad that I chose Bowdoin, I’m really glad that I chose a small, liberal arts college. I can’t imagine myself in public school or in New York City. I’m really enjoying living and studying here. ESC definitely helped me figure out what kind of education and what kind of friends I want to be with. And definitely during the application season all of the support and essay writing, mental health. I just think I definitely couldn’t do it without ESC.”
Getting accepted into college is a highly emotional, exciting moment, and Sissi’s experience was no exception:
“I’ll never forget the morning I got Bowdoin’s acceptance letter…I didn’t even apply to Bowdoin through the 12 schools with ESC, but I definitely used the essays that we worked on together. But that morning, I was just like ‘Okay, I’ll check it. There’s no way I’ll get into Bowdoin.’ And I clicked it. It doesn’t have like ‘congratulations’ on it. First line is: ‘Dear Sissi, you’re in!’ I just didn’t realize what that meant. I took a reaction video and it’s just me like [eyes widening slowly] and I just started crying.”
After getting all of her application results back, Sissi was choosing between Bowdoin, Middlebury College, Tufts University, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While considering multiple factors and fit, Bowdoin quickly became the most obvious choice for her:
“Bowdoin gave me a scholarship because of my research, the project I did in Bangladesh. They gave me a couple thousand dollars to do research, so whenever I want to do research over the summer [or other times], I can use that scholarship to pay for it…It’s a merit-based, just a couple thousand, but I was really flattered…I felt really connected to Bowdoin, so I decided to come here.”
However, getting into college is only the beginning, and ESC’s curriculum aims to ensure that students thrive in college and beyond. Sissi reflected on improving not only her “hard skills” but also her writing skills as well as her ability to understand herself, her emotions, and how to manage stress in a process of learning and growth. The writing skills Sissi developed at ESC continue to serve her well in college:
“Working with Juliette and Stacy and [Annie] helped me to communicate and express my ideas. I think the most important thing is the writing skill. We tried to elaborate and elaborate and elaborate on essays, and the other day when I was writing my application to the on-campus job, I realized I am trying to elaborate my experiences and my reasons why I want to do it, and it’s just the same thing that I was doing during the application season with Juliette…Not only with the job application, [but] also with writing essays: how to elaborate on a single idea and connect it with other experiences, overall I think writing is a big part.”
When she was a student at ESC, Sissi was mainly interested in education, psychology, and anthropology. While her interests have evolved since then as she is now pursuing a major in Neuroscience and minor in Theatre, she continues to take classes in her original areas of interest. Bowdoin’s program in Neuroscience is a good fit for her interest in clinical and biological psychology and the health field broadly. Sissi intends to take a class on medical anthropology next semester that will discuss how cultures view life and death.
Outside of the classroom, Sissi keeps busy with various activities. Sissi recently got an on-campus job in the International Student Office and is working on bolstering support for international students at Bowdoin to build a stronger international community. For her other on-campus job, she works as an assistant and usher for student theatre. She is also involved in volleyball club and outing club. Now that she is in-person on campus, she also has access to gorgeous scenery in Maine, soaking in all of her undergraduate college experience.
For those who are currently applying to college or those who will apply in the future, Sissi offers the following advice:
“I think the most important thing is still know what you want. You don’t have to be very specific about [what you want to major in], but you need to have a general idea of the type of people you want to study with, and the way you know that is by talking to other people—other people in that school, your counselor. Try to get as much real-person information as possible. Not just from the internet, you actually feel something when you talk to a person from that school.”
The ESC community is so proud of Sissi, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for her!