Before beginning at AUP, my interests were mainly in languages and artistic expression. At a young age my curiosity about cultures and communication led me to complete my high school education in Beijing and later to continue on to intensive translation and history studies in Harbin, China. By living in a drastically different, rapidly changing culture, I began to see language in many different media, as symbolic visual forms as well as interactive exchanges. Translation then became a key way to delve into layers of meaning and experiences that go beyond language itself.
When I studied Comparative Literature and Film at AUP – a focus that merged imagery, narrative, and sequence with language – my previous trajectories fused. I began using film and literature as tools to relate many different theories and ideas. My experience in the Film and Comp Lit Departments equipped me with analytical and theoretical skills in writing and developing educated arguments and opinions, which is an essential facet in any life direction. It also allowed me to use my creativity in visual thinking and extrapolate on my own ideas through directed study. I used this opportunity to do a project on self-portrait photography accompanied with text and my senior thesis on urban and corporeal photography juxtaposed with poetic prose, which formed a film storyboard.
These elements of my AUP experience prepared me to go into a more specific field. After I graduated in 2007, I went on to do a Masters of Architecture in Urban Design at University College London. Although I had not studied architecture previously, I had the ability to articulate my conceptual and theoretical ideas about the atmospheric sense of space above the other, purely design-oriented students in the course.
Following completion of the program at University College, I wanted to use my knowledge of the meaning and impact of spaces to make a difference in sustainable development. I had the opportunity to work in that area with the Clinton Foundation in London and later with Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder, Colorado where I contributed to green master plans and energy efficient technologies. Most recently, I worked in community development for an integrated, urban sustainability project called Living City Block in Denver, Colorado. With Living City Block I could again look at ways in which space, perception and consciousness come together in how people relate to each other in vibrant urban environments.
In retrospect, all of the steps in progressing my interests and expression – steps that seemed scattered at the time – map out as quite closely related. Now, I am intending to take the next step and return to a deeper academic study of place, consciousness and interaction through a PhD program in the Philosophy of Architecture.