International students consist of a large portion of the UW population, 4,578 undergraduates in the 2018 academic year to be exact. As an international student myself (I grew up in Taiwan and attended public schools in Taipei City for nearly my entire life), my knowledge of the West and the United States was limited to the occasional vacation trips with my family and depictions of Western culture through various forms of media. I had zero connections in and knowledge of Seattle except those mentioned in popular films, and I never set foot in the Pacific Northwest until I was accepted.
You’re probably wondering why I, an international student from Taiwan, would ultimately choose to spend my four years of college at the UW, among thousands of institutions in the United States.
Although narrowing target schools to apply to was no doubt a strenuous process, making a decision ultimately comes down to balancing my own values. I definitely considered the UW’s overall academic ranking and reputation. And since I was undecided, the wide variety of departments and options I can explore here was appealing.
The campus environment was also a major pull. I was drawn to the vast, nature-filled campus and felt my heart tugging toward the breathtaking Suzzallo Library (aka the “Harry Potter Library”) with European gothic architecture, which was unlike anything I saw in the highly congested, asphalt-covered Taipei City. The gigantic football stadium, scenic bike trails and parks, and surrounding glassy lakes are undoubtedly a breath of fresh air from the towering buildings and car-packed streets I was used to.
Moreover, location was a huge factor. The fact that Seattle is located on the west coast indicates that it is a direct flight from Taipei — an 11-hour to flight across the Pacific Ocean — saving me time and money. Contrary to what you may think, Seattle’s weather is beautiful compared to the suffocating humidity and tropical typhoons that wreak havoc on a monthly basis in Taiwan. Seattle is clearly a wonderful city to work and live, with its businesses, music and art scene, and close proximity to mountains and camping sites.
The best thing that attracts me, however, is the racial and ethnic diversity of the community that I get to be a part of, and I can attest to that even more profoundly since coming here. As of now, I am living with friends under a roof of six countries and five languages. Each of our unique identities can spark flames of inspiration, fascination, and empathy as we actively engage in conversations to peel back surface layers. As I learn more about our differences, my conscience and passion are heightened, and I hope to continue to engage in these thought-provoking discussions.
While I do admit that I did not anticipate the stressfulness and competitiveness of majors and future careers, the UW has provided me with the space and resources to connect me with people on a deep and personal level. Whether playing in an intramural sports team, joining a student association, or volunteering for a cause, there is no one barring you from being adventurous and meeting strangers with similar interests.
We all know that each school has its strengths and flaws. However, there are truths to Seattle and the UW that we can most certainly take pride in. As a wave of new Huskies prepare to launch new journeys, I get to clear out some cobwebs and recall why I chose the UW in the first place. And I get the opportunity to see how my values and feelings toward the UW has transformed and amplified. It is touching to know that every single person brings a different background story, together weaving a multinational narrative that is essential to how we interact with the world today.
Reach writer Kelsey Chuang at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @chuang_kelsey