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Senior reflections: Meng ’18 maximizes his student happiness

June 5, 2018 at 9:20 am
By Thomas Rozwadowski

Daihui MengDaihui Meng ’18 doesn’t fret too much about the future. What’s he going to do post-Carleton? Where is he going to live? What will he miss about college?

According to Meng, maybe the better question to ask oneself in the face of uncertainty is, “How can I maximize my happiness?”

“I suppose it makes me more of an existentialist. You define who you are,” says Meng, a philosophy major. “And I believe I can get happiness from everywhere.”

Even 6,000-plus miles away from home in Northfield, Minnesota? You bet.

Having grown up in Shanxi, China, Meng’s hunger for a different educational experience than the ultra-competitive, rigorous testing model found in his home country set him on a search for liberal arts colleges in the States. The fact that “I could choose whatever class I wanted to take” wasn’t just appealing, he says. It was the affirmation his creative and philosophical side needed.

“You can get a strong education in China. But it just wasn’t for me,” Meng says. “Carleton sounded like a great college. I was looking forward to the challenge of what it meant to study and live in the United States.”

The day he stepped off a plane in Minnesota and moved into his dorm was the first time Meng saw campus. But he knew no matter the environment, no matter how different Carleton was from his home in China, he would define his happiness. It also helped that Meng was used to living in dual worlds. His paternal grandparents are traditional Chinese farmers while his maternal grandparents are well established in business and finance. Those contrasts set him up to “be open to all kinds of experiences.”

“I’m also a pretty adaptive person,” Meng says matter-of-factly. “That’s what you have to do in life. You just adapt.”

Four years at Carleton have inevitably shaped Meng. Likewise, his presence on campus helped shape Carleton.

In a series of senior interviews, we asked Meng (philosophy/studio art) to reflect on life as a Carl and the road to graduation.


Students in China who want to go abroad use agencies to tell them about colleges (in the States). They pick schools for you based on what they know you might want. They know the application process. You write the essays. They help with the paperwork.

I wanted strong academics and a place that had friendly and nice people. I’m close to my cousin, who is two years older, and he was the first one to come to the States. He went to the University of California-San Diego. I didn’t care about physical environment as much. A small, liberal arts school sounded nice.

I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t visit. I came to Carleton two weeks before the start of school and that was my first time seeing campus or Minnesota. I knew I would be pushed out of my comfort zone. I was a bit nervous about my English. But everyone was really approachable and nice from the start. There’s a strong sense of community here, and we really did not have that in Chinese schools. It’s much more individualized there. I came to appreciate how welcoming Carleton people were right away.


I came here with the intention of studying philosophy. That is not part of the curriculum in China, but it’s what I wanted to explore. I wanted choices, all kinds of subjects. I came across an art class when I first arrived — and then I wanted to try them all. (Laughs). I became really interested in photography, too.

What I’ve learned the most by coming to Carleton is how to acquire knowledge. I’ve learned so much in philosophy. I read Kant here. Critique of Pure Reason — the culmination of my academic life. In studio art, I’ve tried so many things. Like metalsmithing — I made the ring I’m wearing. It’s not about fixed courses, just passing exams.

A lot of knowledge can be forgotten. It’s more about the experience you have with that knowledge — the habit of learning. Carleton has an academic environment that cultivates interests and encourages a method of learning that has been so important to me. And the professors, I’ve become so close to many of them. I appreciate that about Carleton.


I’m not a sentimental person. (Laughs). But I am a little sad about leaving here. It’s an amazing place. I met amazing people. I learned that what truly makes a place memorable is the people who are there.

One of my favorite things about Carleton is also how peaceful it is. There were moments where I just felt so happy to be here. It’d be sunny outside, so beautiful to walk around. No one would disturb you. It made me feel like everything I did was worth it.

A lot of people want college to go by so quickly. You’re here for four years of your life. I always tried to appreciate what that meant.

Photo credit: Peycen Ouyang '18