In the coastal city of Ningbo, China, Lucas Athanassiadis ’17 is immersing himself in the culture he studied as as an undergrad. With educational consulting firm Zeal, he is serving as a mentor for high school students seeking an education abroad, most commonly in the U.S. The East Asian language and culture major is making personal connections with young people that, like him, are eager to learn.
“My long term plan is to bridge cultural gaps,” said Athanassiadis, who also minored in economics and Mandarin Chinese. “This experience at Zeal and in China will make me the more global citizen that I need to be to effectively pursue my goals of cross-cultural exchange down the line.”
While Athanassiadis also conducts sales and business outreach with the firm, his primary goal is to help his students find a path to American higher education. Sometimes this involves helping with English skills or school selection. Other times he prepares students to write their personal essays by introducing and honing their self reflection skills that he says are often neglected in a typical Chinese education.
“The coolest thing, by far, about my job is that I get to work with driven and excited students—they really, really want to learn,” he said. “Most of these meetings so far have been reflecting and brainstorming personal statements, which is an amazingly interesting way to come to understand people.”
During most of his senior year, Athanassiadis expected to start his post-grad career not in China, but in Mongolia, with a Princeton in Asia fellowship at an investment bank. However, since he does not speak Mongolian, he opted to take his position in Ningbo so he could speak the local language and connect with native speakers.
“I’d studied Chinese language for seven years, Chinese culture for three years, and it had been a dream of mine to live in the middle kingdom since I was in high school,” he said.
Though he speaks mostly in English with his students, he utilizes his Mandarin when speaking with students’ parents, and in his day-to-day existence in Ningbo. Beyond learning his language skills, his time at Haverford also taught him values that are crucial to relating with his students, coworkers, and friends.
“The social values that I learned at Haverford have been incredibly helpful,” he said. “To listen to the stories of others, to strive to understand, empathize, and respect those around us is an invaluable lesson anywhere, and it certainly is here too.”
-Michael Weber ’19
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.