Why the US? – Jeamme Chia (Sarah Lawrence College ’13 / Yale MEM ’21)


Sarah Lawrence doesn’t do majors, grades, or GPAs (we have grades, but you don’t see them until you make a request for your transcript from the Registrar, which involves filling out a form, paying the school, and waiting up to two days). The school didn’t even have required freshman classes. I knew all this when I went, but I was not prepared for what that meant for my education and life. 

I spent 11 years in public school, where every subject and schedule of my day was mapped out for me. Going to a school where I had total control and flexibility over my classes was liberating—I could do an introductory Economics class in the same semester as a Physics seminar, and considered taking a class on Producing for Film, because the school was famous for its film department (note: it was recently included in Variety’s Best Film Schools for 2019. Link). 

But when you’re used to structure, total flexibility can be stressful. In high school, I was told to take 9 subjects for PMR, 12 for SPM. There was no debate, no discussion, and my opinion didn’t really matter. Now I had to think about why I wanted to take this class, what would I learn, would it apply to my career, what career did I want, did the timing work, would it be too insane to do 9 am classes every day for an entire year? I had to think beyond the semester and sometimes even the year – was this class a prerequisite for another more interesting/advanced class next semester/year?

I agonized over these questions every semester during Registration (the period when we pick classes) and spent every beginning of the year in existential crises. But the experience meant I spent much of college reflecting and thinking about what I wanted from my life and career. (Almost) every class and activity I chose, I had to choose with intention. That type of thinking has helped me navigate my life and career since. I would not trade it for the world.