Carl Quiz: Yawen Chen '15


As one of 64 Chinese nationals studying at Carleton and president of the college’s Chinese Club, Yawen Chen ’15 (Nanjing) wants to expand and nurture Carleton’s Chinese community.  “We want Chinese students to feel at home on campus,” she says.

The group’s future plans include collaborating with the college to help recruit students from China and enhance their experience on campus, developing workshops where all students can talk about issues related to China, and inviting speakers who will help promote Chinese culture on campus and in Northfield. Besides holding numerous activities—such as Mid-Autumn Festival Gathering and New Year Dumpling Dinner—the club also collaborates with other campus organizations to host larger events.

Before coming to Carleton, Chen spent a year exploring various religious traditions in Asia: volunteering with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, visiting the city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges, and working at a Buddhist organic farm in Malaysia. She also has taught English to blind students in Shanghai and assisted a Chinese billionaire who invests in restaurants and start-up organizations in mainland China and related areas, including Taiwan. 

Chen enrolled at Carleton because “I wanted to be part of a community where I can learn things beyond just skills,” she says. “And I was looking for a small, peaceful place where I could reconnect with nature.” Eventually, she plans to start her own company, which will combine her interests in food and education. But first, this busy student agreed to take the Carl Quiz.

Meaning of name: Ya means elegant; wen means peaceful. My parents called me that because, after a difficult birth, I didn’t make a sound. But that’s no longer the case!

Dream vacation: I want to visit all the national parks in the United States.

temple.jpgChildhood claim to fame: As a member of the Nanjing Little Red Flower art troupe in primary school, I played the Chinese flute for visiting dignitaries and audiences around the world. 

Life under one-child policy: As only children, my friends and I didn’t have to fight for attention from our parents. But I wish I had younger siblings; I like to take care of people.

What I did over the summer: I studied temple music in Singapore and Taiwan on a research fellowship with Carleton music instructor Gao Hong and two American students. It was a fantastic trip.

takeout.jpgWhere I go to eat Chinese food: Grand Szechuan in Bloomington, Minnesota, or United Noodles, an Asian supermarket in Minneapolis

What surprised me about Carleton: People here question systems and institutions. They don’t use their privilege. I admire that attitude.
   I appreciate courses, like one I took with sociology professor Meera Sehgal, that critique western ideologies through an academic lens.
   People who come from different communities have very different values. It’s less homogenous than China. 

What I'd like to tell Americans: Although many Chinese seem shy, it’s usually because we don’t know a lot of English slang or cultural references. But we really do want to get to know you! 

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