Susana Puente Matos ('14)

Susana Puente Matos ('14)

1. Please tell us a little about yourself!

I was born in New York City to two doctors: my father, from Quito, Ecuador, and my mother, from New York. My father’s later work brought our family to China and Japan, where I spent the large part of my childhood until my teens. I graduated from high school in New York at sixteen and attended an exchange program in Taipei, Taiwan, where I lived with a Taiwanese family and went to a local high school for three months, after which I attended a graduate Mandarin training program at Shi Da University. At the same time I developed an interest in French, which seemed to me to be a delightful counterpart to Mandarin.

I graduated Wellesley in 2014 with a double major in Chinese and French and an unofficial minor in Music/Voice.

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

I knew that if I didn’t continue my Chinese studies actively, all of my past efforts would be wasted. So it was an intuitive decision to simply continue with my studies while incorporating French into the fold, as well as music, which had been a part of my life since I was three. My studies of Mandarin at Wellesley deeply influenced my friendships ( there’s no better bonding exercise than studying three hundred characters for an exam!) and also sent me to Fudan University in Shanghai for one year, where I was the first Wellesley exchange student to attend Fudan University’s Chinese literature courses.

3. What are you doing now?

Quite a stretch from where I was at Wellesley. Studying Chinese and moving to Shanghai for a year was an incredible decision, as it convinced me beyond any doubt that, in spite of my deep and long term connection to China through my upbringing, it was not where I saw myself in the immediate future. So I applied to Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, for a Master of Science in Arts and Cultural Heritage Management. While there I determined that managing museums didn’t interest me, but the art itself did, and so while finishing my degree I made up a bachelor’s degree in Art History ( I had never taken a single course in the field at Wellesley!) and applied to a Research Master’s program in Art History of the Low Countries at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. I have since completed both my MSc from Bocconi and my RMA from Utrecht, and am now conducting PhD research at University of Amsterdam on a 20th Century Dutch Artist and his aesthetic interpretations of Nietzsche and Oswald Spengler. I am also writing a novel and catalogue texts for art dealers and auction houses.

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

Studying a broad range of subjects — and multiple languages — has given me invaluable flexibility in learning and adapting to new cultures and environments. While, at the moment, I seldom use my Mandarin-speaking skills, I work and live in Dutch, Italian, and French, and occasionally Spanish. The drive, determination and discipline required to learn Chinese has enabled me to pick up new skills and entirely new careers in a fraction of the time that I would have needed otherwise. I carry my Mandarin-exercise books wherever I move, and intend to return to them in due time. But for now, while I may struggle to think of a word or recognise a character, I am eternally grateful for the work ethic and mindset I acquired through learning Mandarin.