Taylor Bickford ('15)

Taylor Bickford ('15)

1. Please tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up in very rural Maine, which often lead to a huge shock when I would tell people back home that I speak Mandarin. I graduated from Wellesley in 2015 with a major in Art History and minor in Chinese Language and Culture – and I am grateful I was often able to interweave the two by taking some fantastic courses in Chinese film and art. I actually started as an International Relations major, and Chinese seemed a natural pairing with that. However I discovered a love of art history and while my major changed, I only found art coupled even better with my deep interest in Chinese culture – even the writing of characters is art itself (plus I had spent way too much time memorizing flash cards to abandon Chinese!).

2. Why did you decide to become a Chinese Language & Culture minor? How did it shape your experience at Wellesley?

As I said, I originally pursued Chinese because it seemed useful in the context of international relations, however, I soon became enamored with writing the characters and fascinated by every aspect of a culture so foreign to me. Learning Chinese was no walk in the park though, but I realized how much I loved it when I was willing to put in the hours to become as proficient as I could. The Chinese department also had such a homey feel to it – we struggled together, but we also celebrated mid-autumn festival and ate moon cakes together. I really enjoyed the small community it provided me at Wellesley, and also how it allowed me to connect and have greater insight into the lives of some of my friends at Wellesley who were of Chinese descent. While I would say studying Chinese was my “money making” degree to make up for Art History (not highly employable of a major), I loved how it made me feel unique and unexpected – it gave me dimension. Really it is a culture with so much depth and so far from my homogenous youth experience that kept me constantly curious, finding (easily) ways to weave it into my life over time such as attending the Middlebury immersion program over the summer my Sophomore year and later in life when I traveled to China with London Business School while pursuing my masters to learn about Chinese business culture.

3. What are you doing now?

Now, I am in a professional development program at a benefits insurance company in Portland, Maine where I will rotate through different departments in the business over the course of 4 years, graduating into a Director role. My current rotation is in operational effectiveness and business strategy. I am also training for the California International Marathon in December, with a goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials 2020 (then coming to run the Boston Marathon after that!).

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

Wellesley was life changing for me. Its funny because I never imagined going to Wellesley when I first applied, and now I am positive I would not know where I would be without it. It allowed me to study abroad in London for a year, where I learned that I loved the city enough to go back for business school. It taught me how to interact and engage a wide variety of people from all walks of life. Obviously, it taught me the normal liberal arts school things as well. I also came to appreciate feminism, and actual the differences in human beings, in a way that was more nuanced. I fell into the chance to help start a startup that was based in Wellesley, where I began my career. Wellesley actually threw off my whole life plan, for the better. In doing so, it made me capable of taking chances and embracing the myriad of opportunities life has to offer if you aren’t tunnel vision on a set path. And you know what, I think Chinese Language and Culture had a large part to do with that, because while I joked I studied it for employability purposes, the truth is, I studied it for pure joy – and now, that’s how I make almost all my decisions in life. I once heard someone at Wellesley say, “I am focusing on being happy now, rather than making a plan or doing things to be happy in the future.” It took me a while to break out of the swim lane, but now, I think that’s a good way to live.