Why dual-degree program?

As a member of the very small dual-degree program between Tufts University and School of Museum of Fine Arts, I was approached by the admissions office to write about why I chose the program. Here are my reasons.


Why Tufts?

I was that kid in high school who would willingly spend eight hours on a painting assignment but would also enjoy writing a 14-page research paper on merits of authoritarianism. Craving for both intensive studio practices and a general liberal arts education, I had my eyes on the combined degree program between Tufts and SMFA. I deeply appreciate the luxury of exploring my diverse interests without ever compromising either my artistic goals or academic pursuits. I feel truly content with what this program has offered me — and it was love at first sight.

There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised — your family, home, neighborhood, or community — and how it influenced the person you are today.

I moved from my hometown, a medium-sized city, to its neighboring city, Shanghai, at the age of six. I remember tracing my mother’s footsteps in the overwhelming crowd at a subway station, amazed by the metropolitan lifestyle. A year later after we moved, though, I started commuting to my downtown primary school on my own, totally at ease with underground trains and flooding crowds. To everyone’s surprise, I moved again to a village in Maine to continue high school years later, where I indulged in painting, literature, and nature. My experiences of growing up in extremely disparate parts of the world fostered my variety of interests. I enjoy wandering in urban landscapes and hopping between galleries and museums. But I also treasure moments in nature: sketching the stem of a leaf or a petal of a withering flower, or hiking through the heart of a mountain and its forests. Eventually, I found the happy medium between a megacity and a remote town — the city Boston.

But more importantly, I learned if we overcome our fear for uncertainties of the future, every new place can be a possibility for a new home. Right now, I find it surprisingly soothing to travel in between Tufts and SMFA, and metaphorically, in between two fields of studies. Perhaps I have finally found a constant among uncertainties and changes.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — the first elected female head of state in Africa and winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize — has lived a life of achievement. “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough,” she once said. As you apply to college, what are your dreams?

The two Chinese characters “Yu” and “Chun” that make up my first name were given to me after my family’s deliberate consideration. When translated into English, however, all that is left are the pronunciation and alphabetical letters. For those who can’t read Chinese, the meanings are forever lost in this kind of translation.

Loss in meaning does not only happen in translation between different languages. I have been living in a foreign country for five years, and I noticed that it is always much harder to describe the significance of certain events, customs, and sometimes my personal feelings to my foreign peers. I have met numerous Chinese students of my generation, immigrants of previous generations, and undocumented Chinese immigrants. They all reminded me of what is like to be a foreigner, a member of a racial minority, and sometimes an outsider. I wondered if there was a way to blend into a western society without sacrificing my — and our — “Asianness”.

With the goal of bridging the culture and communication gap between China and US, I tried to merge eastern and wester aesthetic elements in my designs, I started studying International Relations at Tufts, and I became a member of Chinese Student Association at Tufts. This goal has become a part of my life rather than my “dream” — a lofty term. Perhaps too often we are scared of our dreams because they seem too idealistic in the face of reality. But dreams come from our daily experiences, and before we know it, we started to carry on our shoulder when we march forward in life.


Lynette Bian is a liberal arts & design student at Tufts University. Visit her design works at www.yuchunbian.xyz