Isabella Liu ('06)

Isabella Liu ('06)

1. Please tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA), but always knew I wanted to live elsewhere and was so excited for the opportunity when I decided to attend Wellesley. I graduated in 2006 and double-majored in Chinese Studies (focus in History) and Economics. 

2. Why did you decide to become a Chinese Studies major? How did it shape your experience at Wellesley?

My parents are from Taiwan, so I had some exposure to Chinese language and culture growing up. However, what I knew was mostly learned through socializing with family and inference. My comprehension was really basic and lacked a real foundation. 

Before college, I studied French and had some AP credits, so by my first year, I had fulfilled my language requirement. I knew I wanted to study another language and thought why not try Chinese -- it’s the native language for my family, but I could barely hold a conversation. 

At the time I enrolled in my first Chinese language class (one for heritage learners), I was an Economics and Political Science double-major. By the end of the semester, I had switched from Political Science to Chinese Studies as my second major. Professor Jingheng Ma was the professor of that class and even though it met first thing in the morning several times a week, each session was a delight. Professor Ma’s skillful unveiling of each day’s and week’s new characters, phrases, and linguistic tools transported me in time and place and into the very strokes of the characters we were studying. Before I knew it, I was obsessed with studying all things Chinese and every semester after that, I took every Chinese Studies class I could find in the Wellesley course catalog. 

Discovering Chinese Studies had a huge impact on my experience at Wellesley. As a teenager growing up in Northern California, I didn’t know how to lean into being Chinese and Asian -- I wasn’t in denial of my background, but also didn’t know enough about my culture to be genuinely proud. At Wellesley, the Chinese Studies major presented me with an academic opportunity that was intellectually rich and challenging but also personally meaningful. Wellesley was the first place I felt truly at home, and Chinese Studies had a part in providing that sense of self-discovery, acceptance, and belonging.

3. What are you doing now?

My professional experience has been varied. I spent four years in Finance (investment banking and private equity) in NYC, before I went to business school at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. After business school, I moved back to the Bay Area to work on my own startup, an e-commerce site that helped shoppers navigate their shopping journey end to end. After a year, I decided it wasn’t the right venture for me and as it was 2016 and I passionately believed Hillary Clinton would be a great president for all people, took the opportunity to join the campaign full time as part of her field staff in Florida. After that, I took some time off and then joined Uber, where I’ve been for the past two years working in various business operations roles. Throughout my post-college career, when possible, I’ve also welcomed the chance to try other functions and industries even if for a brief time, including gigs in media production (Beijing), public relations (NYC), hospitality (NYC), and fashion (NYC). 

4. How has your Wellesley experience and your major influenced your life/career after college?

Attending Wellesley is the most meaningful decision I’ve made in my personal life and in my professional career. It opened up a world of different people and opinions I otherwise would never have encountered, taught me how to think dynamically (instead of in static facts) to be able to seek out truth in any context, and instilled in me the value of servant leadership and the responsibility we have to lead in any form so that we can leave our organizations and communities better off. Wellesley also offered me the space and time needed to become my own person and woman, to have confidence in that, and to never need to apologize for it. 

Chinese Studies was a big part of that Wellesley journey. Despite being culturally Chinese, I didn’t really have access to Chinese history, language, and culture until I started studying it at Wellesley. It was also through the major that I first discovered the History Department, and it was in History classes where I truly honed my ability to process information critically, think dynamically from all angles and perspectives, and form grounded opinions. 

My experience at Wellesley and as a Chinese Studies major left me so much richer as an individual and professional than any diploma. It has guided my career choices, reminded me that life and career are both marathons (and not sprints), and that success and happiness are ultimately defined and evaluated by the individual. I could not be more thankful for having attended Wellesley and for having access to the exceptional professors and courses under the Chinese Studies major.