Summer Spotlight: International Student, Yuchen Han

Each year the Summer School welcomes students from around the world to join our five-week International Summer Study program. Since 2011, more than 325 international students have participated in this rigorous and rewarding program. One student enjoyed his experience so much that he applied to for admission to WashU as an undergraduate international transfer student and was accepted in 2018. Yuchen Han shares his path from being an International Summer Study program participant to becoming a full-time student at WashU.

What led you to apply to the International Summer Study program?

After my freshman year at Northwest University in 2016, I decided to transfer to the United States for my personal and academic goals. Since I have been educated in the Chinese educational system for many years, I felt that it would be hard for me to just transfer directly without any prior experience. So, after talking with my parents, I decided to spend one summer in the US to be better prepared for my future undergraduate study. WashU was in my target list initially because of their high rank and [reputation] for its excellent undergraduate education. […] I explored further and found some features in the program attractive to me. For example, in the program we could experience traditional life in the Midwest. From my perspective, it represents the most traditional and distinctive American life. Also, the program revealed the course listings for all potential applicants. This is an excellent choice because most applicants are targeting for the courses, like myself. I found some of the class offerings out of the ordinary. So, I decided to give it a try.

Can you describe your experience as an international student at WashU?

When I was a program student, the whole experience was fantastic; mainly due to our instructors, program managers, and support staff. The housing situation was really great and individual privacy was respected greatly. The schedule arrangements were just to the point... I felt neither too overwhelmed nor [too] free. I got enough time to finish my homework and assignments yet, I still had time to explore this whole new country and the city regarding its food, entertainment, sports and so on. I even got a chance to go to Chicago, which is one of the most historic cities in the US.

Yuchen upon arrival to WashU. He wrote, "Bazinga!"

What did you enjoy most about being a student in the summer program?

I guess that the most enjoyable part is the whole feeling and format of the program. You can always feel that the program mainly focuses on academics. However, you can still own much free time to explore the region and the new culture. Nobody pushes or pressures you to do anything. You are devoted to the academic fields like papers and quizzes, but you are not stressed. The whole campus brings a feeling of optimism and fresh perspectives. Although I may not give a specific point right now, I can say for sure that every element in the program including the people, classes, and activities will make anyone fall in love with the university.

What were your summer classes like?

I took two classes: Improvisation and Principles of Writing. The improvisation class was really nice. It was taught by an adjunct faculty who is also a local entrepreneur. The whole class atmosphere was so active, and we actually learned through playing. [The teacher's] own practical experience made the class close to real world instead of only containing theories. The other class was kind of intense for international students. For me, this was the first time that I took an academic writing class in English. I think [Principles of Writing] was super helpful as I prepared for my transfer application and my undergraduate life at WashU because writing is the most useful skill in college.

Yuchen (center) acting in his Improvisation class.

What were the main factors in your decision to transfer universities?

The main factor that influenced my transfer was academics. My home university is a great institution in China, but I still desired to pursue a better and higher quality undergraduate education. Also, I knew I could have more opportunities if I transferred to a US university because of better professors and a more heuristic teaching method. I wanted to take classes and explore other areas outside my major. I always thought that computer science may not be the best fit for my personality. So, after I transferred, although I decided to stick to my computer science major for now, I've made the decision to pursue law school in the future. From this aspect, transferring to WashU is one of the landmarks in my life.

Describe the moment you learned you were accepted to WashU as an undergraduate international student.

WashU was always my priority when I was determining my transfer school list. By coincidence, WashU is the school that released my decision letter relatively late compared to other universities. Before WashU, I already received admission letters from three other universities. But I really wanted to wait for a decision from WashU before I made a final decision. I recall that it was the morning of May 16th, 2018 that I received the admission decision from WashU. I woke up from a nightmare that I was rejected by WashU. Then I found that I received an email from WashU. When I logged into my applicant portal, the first word that I read was, "Congratulations!" After that, I realized that I was admitted to my dream school. So, I literally jumped up from my bed and worshipped the heaven three times. Then, I called my parents and told them the news. They were also extremely happy for me. It was so hard for a transfer student to get admitted to a top 20 university. I did not hesitate at all and knew WashU was the right choice. It really did not take me much time to make the decision. When I got the admission from WashU, I just thought, "This is it!"

Yuchen sitting in the cockpit of an airplane.

In what ways was the summer program beneficial to you and your academic career?

From my current view, the summer program at WashU was decisive for my whole academic career and even for my whole life. It [affirmed] my [desire] to transfer and introduced me to the academic world in the US. From the academic level, the summer helped me get a better idea of how the classes in US colleges look like and function. It prepared me better for the intensive undergraduate study. Also, due to my academic performance in the summer, I got a reference letter from one of my professors, which I believed was beneficial to me when I applied to transfer to WashU. From the life view, the summer made me more familiar with a totally different culture and living environment, which are very important for an international student. I got used to a normal college day in the US and my summer experience helped me get used to undergraduate life here also. It is safe to say that the summer in WashU helped me experience a smooth transition period after my transfer.

Yuchen Han is a 2017 International Summer Study program alumnus. He transferred from Northwest University in China to Washington University in St. Louis in 2018. He is currently a third year undergraduate student in the McKelvey School of Engineering pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a minor in Economics. He plans to apply to law school after graduation.